Ronnie Schiller

Ronnie Schiller

She was named Ronnie at birth by her bipolar mother who cared so little, she chose the name of the baby’s father. It goes downhill from there. Though her story is incredibly dark, it’s ultimately one of resilience, humor and insight into mental illness and how to cope with being bipolar on a daily basis. Ronnie is the author of several books, including Mother’s House Payment.



Episode notes:

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Episode Transcript:

Paul: Welcome to episode number 45 with my guest Ronnie Schilller. 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. Feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy, and that vague sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour, we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental advice. I am a jack ass that spins dick jokes, dick yarns, all things dick. Don’t think of this show as a doctors office it’s more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck. The uh, website for this show is and there’s all kinds of stuff there, you can check out the forum, you can shoot me an email through that, uh all kinds of stuff. So go check that out, I appreciate it. More stuff than I could bore you with right here, so go there and be bored. That’s what I encourage you, is uh waste some electricity and bore yourself. We have a great interview with Ronnie, Ronnie Schiller today, and it’s a bit on the dark side, so if you’re not up for the darkness then I uh, I would say uh, save it for another day. But I think it’s a great interview and uh, ultimately uplifting, not a downer, ultimately, but uh definitely some some darkness in between.

Before we get to her great interview, I would like to read a, a listener email and this comes uh, this uh this email comes from a listener named Angel, and she writes, “Hi Paul. I just want to say that your podcast is similar to the music video No Rain by Blind Melon. I feel like the young bee. What an excellent idea to make a safe place for people with depression and anxiety to congregate. It’s so nice to know that I am not the only one who feels the way I do. Thank you for being able to talk about your feelings openly and for bringing people on your show to open up to you and us. You have no idea how much this helps. Sincerely, Angel.”

Angel, thank you, and I don’t know what it was about your email that that, um just, touched me so deeply. I guess because that, that Blind Melon video I always found so sweet that, that girl and that bee, um that bee outfit. It just um just made me feel warm and fuzzy. And your email, your email kind of made me feel the same way. So um, I wanted to read that, so thank you for sending that in. And then I have another email that I would like to read and this comes from, uh, a guy named Steven, and Steven writes, “I was listening to a recent episode where you joked it would be easier to list the places where you hadn’t masturbated then the ones you had. You mentioned church and a sports stadium, and I had this to share. My father is a baptist minister and when I was 12 years old he took me with him to a convention, a three day gathering of about 25,000 ministers and church members. That year it was in New Orleans and they held it in the Super Dome. I’d been staying in a hotel room with my dad for two days with no real privacy and as a 12 year old in the throes of puberty I was feeling a little pent up. So during one of the many many sermons, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. That’s right, I jacked off in the Super Dome during the Southern Baptist convention.

Intro Theme

Paul: I’m here with Ronnie Schiller. Is it Schiller Johnson now?

Ronnie: Yeah—

Paul: What do you like to be known as?

Ronnie: I just generally go by Schiller.

Paul: Ronnie Schiller. And uh, I became aware of Ronnie—I don’t know if you emailed me or Greg Behrendt said, ‘oh yeah she’s this cool punk rock chick with an amazing story. You should have her on as a guest’, and so you and I corresponded a little bit and you said, ‘well let me send you some stuff I wrote about um, about my life story’. And I read it and I, it was uh, really interesting. And really well written, you’re a great writer. And I thought, ‘let’s get her, let’s get her on as a, as a guest’. You live in Utah and you just happened to be in LA for a couple of days and so you swung by and um, you’re, we were just talking before we started rolling that you’re a little nervous, do you want to talk about that?

Ronnie: I’m, I’m not a people person. I’m not really very outgoing. Most people think that I’m mean because I just don’t talk to people. So yeah, a little nervous, ya know, stranger.

Paul: That’s okay. That’s okay, I understand. As you know, having listened to this podcast, it’s not like we’re just going to talk about the weather.

Ronnie: Well the thing is, that doesn’t bother me—

Paul: That doesn’t bother you, talking about the stuff in your past? Good.

Ronnie: Not at all. I have no problem talking about that, in the least.

Paul: Yeah. What do you think makes you nervous?

Ronnie: I just don’t know people. I’m super self conscious. So...

Paul: Yeah. Are you afraid that I’m not going to like you? Or you’re gonna do something wrong?

Ronnie: I suppose. I, it, you get the feeling that everyone is judging you.

Paul: Yeah, that’s so not, that’s so not the case. When I read your story, my heart just went out to you, and I was like, I’m so on your side. You, you have no idea. You have no idea. So you have nothing to fear as far as, as far as me judging you, or you know, any of that, any of that stuff. You know, any, any time a complete stranger comes on my show and opens up about the painful stuff in their life, you know, if anything I should be getting judged for being nosey. You know what I mean? So don’t, so don't feel at all like you’re, like you’re gonna get judged. The emails that I get from people, there’s such a spirit of goodwill in the people that listen to this show. It’s just amazing, you know, I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that we’re talking and admitting things that have happened to us or that we’ve done, that to other people would be horrifying to talk about so, in some ways we, you’ve sort of won them over already by talking about that stuff, but, let me rest you, if I can, ease your mind, about the fact that the people, people are on your side and they’re not going to judge you, and anybody that does judge you, fuck ‘em.

Ronnie: I agree. ‘Fuck it’ is the theme of the weekend.

Paul: Is it?

Ronnie: Oh yeah.

Paul: Are you having a good trip so far?

Ronnie: Yes. It’s been fantastic, and weird. It’s surreal. I live in Utah and nothing happens in Utah that’s good. And it’s weird to go to the farmers market and see a guy from TV that I’ve been watching for years and years and years.

Paul: Oh yeah? Who was that?

Ronnie: Alexis Denisof.

Paul: Who’s that?

Ronnie: He was Wesley on Angel

Paul: Oh, okay.

Ronnie: And Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Paul: Oh, okay.

Ronnie: And he was just walking to meet his wife at the farmers market for lunch, just walked right past me. It was so weird, and then last night the show, I got to meet Brian Posehn and that was, crazy. And Will Anderson and everybody was there. It was just weird—

Paul: Ronnie went to see the Walking the Room Starfish Circus and Patton and Karen Kilgariff were on the show—

Ronnie: And Amy Mann—

Paul: And Amy Mann. What an amazing show. They’re podcast is so fucking funny if you guys have never listened to Walking the Room, and it, in many ways is the polar opposite of this show, ‘cause it is kind of a wild wild west of just gun slinging and I don’t know, how, how would you describe Walking, Walking the Room? It’s, it’s hilarious, it’s dark, it’s wrong, it’s it’s so irreverent, and it’s so, I guess in some ways it’s similar to this show in that you talk about the darkness, but the style of it is completely different.

Ronnie: That’s what I was going to say. They’re like a weird cousin of this show in that they’re very real, they talk about what’s going on in their lives, but it’s like listening to two 14 year old boys in a locker room talking about their lives—

Paul: Exactly.

Ronnie: You don’t have the self awareness yet.

Paul: Yes. It, it, I I love it. It’s one of my favorite podcasts and it takes a lot to make a jaded comedian laugh out loud and their podcast makes me laugh out loud, it, yeah. It’s the good kind of wrong.

Ronnie: It is awesome.

Paul: I think that’s the best way to describe it. The good kind of wrong. But enough about them, let’s talk about you, Ronnie. You were, you were raised in—mental illness runs in your family. Talk about your mom if you would.

Ronnie: My mom was bipolar. And she was diagnosed, she spent some time in the state hospital. And she took medication for a little while and decided she didn’t like it. And just quit doing it. And she was completely nuts, I mean just no touch with reality most of the time. Extremely self absorbed. Her mother was an alcoholic at least. I didn’t know her very well. Called her by her name, she was never grandma—

Paul: Really?

Ronnie: She was Anita. And my mom had been married at least once before she married my dad and, her husband, her first husband was schizophrenic, so I have an older half sister who is schizophrenic and um, I got the really fun bipolar passed down. My brother—

Paul: Is that a beautiful ceremony when they hand down the bipolarty?

Ronnie: It was fantastic. We had, it’s like a mohel but he’s a guy that just hangs out and sort of rubs blood in the form of a cross on your head. No....anyway...and my brother got the clinical depression, so she was the worst mother, ever. And she, the only thing she ever gave me that I got to keep was the bipolar.

Paul: If you, if you would, just hold your microphone a little bit closer. There, there now we’re talking. Um, so, so talk, having, because I’m familiar with your story, I don’t want to lead you around too much. I want you to tell it naturally, but there’s also stuff that I don’t want to skip, so um, where would be a good place to start? Why don’t we start with her first marriage? It do, the one thing that overall reading your story, that struck me was, how the fuck do you keep track of all of these people coming in and out of your life. There’s so many half-brothers and half-sisters and step-dads and it’s like, it’s like a, roots meets cops.

Ronnie: It, there are a lot of people.

Paul: Yeah, the genealogy of your family. There were times when I was reading, and and I would just have to stop and go ‘wait who was this person? I know they’re an asshole, but I can’t remember what this dick did’.

Ronnie: Well yeah, that’s pretty much a given.

Paul: And, and by the way, the way I was able to read this was you had written a story that was, that you were going to try to get published, but then you decided against it, but you sent me a Kindle version of it, and that’s what, that’s what I read.

Ronnie: Dang that’s selling like crazy. It’s—

Paul: Oh you are selling it now?

Ronnie: It’s out there, it’s out there, and because it’s a 99 cent Kindle it’s sold probably 20 or 30 copies within that first two weeks.

Paul: Oh really?

Ronnie: Because people just, ‘99 cents, I’ll get that’.

Paul: Right right. Well, well let’s plug it then.

Ronnie: Um...

Paul: You don’t want to plug it?

Ronnie: No, it’s terrible, that’s the worst writing ever.

Paul: You think so?

Ronnie: Oh yeah, I think it’s awful.

Paul: Then I have terrible taste, because, I, I liked it.

Ronnie: Um, well, we can—

Paul: Is that just you being hard on yourself?

Ronnie: No, no I really don’t like it—

Paul: What don’t you like about it?

Ronnie: Um, the sentence structure is not great. The point of view is first person past and it just sloppy and messy. I use the same word over and over and over. I can do better.

Paul: Okay.

Ronnie: I have novels that are better than that.

Paul: Okay. Well, I wasn’t, to me, the the, what’s good about it is the heart and the vulnerability that went into it. And, and your sense of humor comes through as well and that’s what I judged it by. It probably also, that I’m grammatically almost illiterate, so a lot of that stuff probably went over my head. But, Ronnie is silently laughing right now. Um, so if you’re grammatically illiterate and like a good story, go ahead and read it. Do you, do you truly not want people to go read it?

Ronnie: No. They can. The thing about it is I don’t want people to think that that’s how I write.

Paul: Okay.

Ronnie: Because I have these other books that are actually technically better, and I don't want people to think that I’m functionally illiterate in writing novels. They’re actually better.

Paul: Okay. Well what is the name of it?

Ronnie: It’s called Mother’s House Payment.

Paul: Okay, and you can get it on, going to the Kindle store or Amazon or...

Ronnie: It is Kindle exclusive. So it is on Amazon, and I had, there is an author page for me on Amazon, Ronnie Schiller, S-C-H-I-L-L-E-R. And it’s on there. And the better books are on there as well.

Paul: Okay, I love that not even five minutes into it and you’ve already put yourself down, so congratulations. It’s not a record for this show, I’m sure somebody, I think somebody has, did it in their opening sentence, so, um you’re probably not going to make the top ten in that.

Ronnie: I didn’t do it sooner because you were talking for most of the first five minutes.

Paul: That’s pretty much what I do. Pretty much what I do. Well, your first chance given to speak...

Ronnie: That’s true.

Paul: Although it might have been, because you said it’s not very good. God, I am just, I’m like Ed Norton starting this fucking interview, I’m just, walking around the table with the napkin. I, I apologize. I’m gonna blame it on Santa Claus. It’s a couple days before Christmas, and uh, you know, whatever the fuck that means. So, hopefully your nervousness has dissipated now that you know I’m a fucking incompetent jackass. You, you do seem more relaxed now that you know, you really, this is beneath you.

Ronnie: Oh yeah, way. I just spent the last night with Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt, really?

Paul: I would say comedically yes, yes. Morally, no. Um, alright we’re getting too inside for people, there are people that probably don’t know Walking the Room and un, sometimes we can get a little insidey on the podcasts. Um, so, you uh, there’s this, bipolar runs through your family. Your mom married a string of men, the second or third guy that she was married to was your father. What was his name?

Ronnie: Ron.

Paul: Ron. And you had a good relationship with him? Decent relationship with him?

Ronnie: I had a weird relationship with my dad, until I was, um, probably about 10 I thought that he hung the sun and the moon. I thought he was, everything that anyone could ever want in a parent. He was my daddy, you know? I called him daddy until I was grown up, and that might be a southern thing.

Paul: It is a southern thing and it used to creep me out and then I realized, ‘nah that’s okay, that’s just a, that’s just a cultural thing’.

Ronnie: It was, it was just a thing. Um, but I always called her Jackie. So that should—

Paul: Your mom. Yeah. And what was she like towards you? She was kinda cold, right? She didn’t really have any emotion.

Ronnie: I rarely saw her at all. I mean the situation was, the story according to my dad, we’ll start with how I got here, the story according to my dad was he wanted a child, he wanted a son, let’s, let’s be honest, he wanted a son. And she said, ‘well I want a house. So if you buy me a house, I will give you a child’. And so the transaction went through. And they had sex on his birthday, like the only time. And I was conceived, and when I was born, I was supposed to be name Bridget, which, doesn’t suit me at all, so that’s alright, but I was supposed to be named Bridget. So I was born, my dad left the room, went to the payphone, and called the family, ‘it’s a girl, and her name is Bridget Marie’, and he goes back in the room and she’s already done the birth certificate and she said, ‘here, I named her after you, she’s yours’ and handed me over. That’s it. She had nothing to do with me.

Paul: Where’s my house?

Ronnie: She got the house.

Paul: Wow. They, they remained married thought for a little while, right?

Ronnie: Until right before my fifth birthday.

Paul: And then what happened?

Ronnie: Um, he says that he woke up in the middle of the night and she was standing over him with a knife, um, I had, I can’t corroborate that because I was four years old, but she was, looney. Right before that, um, I, remember going down the hallway, we had a really small house. Very small house—

Paul: And this is where?

Ronnie: In Whitcliffe, Kentucky, population 477. Very small town. But I went to the end of the hallway where her room was, and I found her on the bed. She was unconscious, she had the phone in her hand, and I tried to wake her up, and I don’t know what happened between there and there, but the next thing I remember the, um paramedics were taking her out on the gurney, and she had ODed and she went to state hospital, in Hopkinsville, which is a really scarey place. It is very scarey. But she was locked up for a while. And in that interim, my dad left. So....

Paul: And so who raised you then?

Ronnie: Um, we had a, a friend, my dad went into nursing school as soon as he found out that my mom was pregnant, because he wanted a job, a reliable job. He had been delivering pizzas and working as an ambulance driver, and like, three jobs up to that point, so he went into nursing school, and he had a friend that was like the only other male nurse, and that guy’s mother was living with us, and she took care of me.

Paul: Okay. And did, did it ever occur to your dad, ‘hey the mom’s in the looney bin, this is maybe not the best time for me to leave the kids. Maybe I should stay, stay here now’ or he thought ‘I need to, I need to secure a financial future for them, that’s why I should leave’. I mean does it strike you as odd that that would be the point at which he would drop out of the equation?

Ronnie: Knowing him now?

Paul: Yeah.

Ronnie: No. He was incredibly self-absorbed. Like, he was, 27 when I was born. So he was like 30 about the time this was going down, and, I think back to when I was 30, and I don’t know if I was nearly as selfish as he was. He was epically selfish his entire life.

Paul: Is he an addict or alcoholic?

Ronnie: Major alcoholic.

Paul: Okay, yeah, you know that’s a, there’s three things that doctors agreed on around the turn of the century, last turn of the century. Was, uh, three qualities that all addicts and alcoholics share in common; emotionally immature, self-centered, and hypersensitive to criticism. Does that ring true?

Ronnie: Oh that’s so my dad. Yeah.

Paul: So, your dad goes to nursing school, you’re being raised by the mom of his nursing school buddy, and I remember, in the, in the book, you felt warm towards this woman, correctly?

Ronnie: Oh I, I loved her so much.

Paul: And what was her name?

Ronnie: Joanne.

Paul: And so she was kinda, would it be fair to say that she was kind of your, your rock, your sense of stability and love?

Ronnie: Yep. She was, she was the only thing I had, and she was a big woman, and I was a tiny tiny kid. And I used to just sit on her lap. And when I went to kindergarten, we got out halfway through the day, and I would come home and she would lay on the couch and I would curl up behind her knees, and sleep on the couch with her until the big kids got home from school, everyday. And she would cook, um—

Paul: Man, can big women cook.

Ronnie: Oh man, she made chicken and dumplings that I still remember to this day, amazing. But she would also go to the grocery store with us, because we didn’t have enough food-stamps to get by, and she would stuff her dress with meat. And walk out of the store just, covered with meat, that she would steal for us, and that’s what we ate, that’s what we had to eat.

Paul: It’s like a John Waters movie without the punchline.

Ronnie: The best, here’s the best part, I remember I was about, I was about four or five, I was still really small, maybe kindergarten age. And I was sitting out on the porch, the front porch with her, and we lived in a neighborhood that was forrests, and they cleared out just enough to put in a house, and then somebody else built a house, so we were surrounded by woods. And I was sitting on the porch and I was like, ‘Joanne, look at that squirrel’, and then I kind of heard a noise behind me, and then BANG, and it drops and that’s what we had for dinner.

Paul: Really?

Ronnie: Yes.

Paul: She shot it?

Ronnie: She shot it. She cleaned it. She fried it.

Paul: Do you remember how it tasted?

Ronnie: Yeah, like gamey chicken.

Paul: Yeah, wow. Um, so Joanne was in your life, she was kinda your, your, your rock, and then what happened?

Ronnie: Um, my mom remarried, pretty quickly. She married a really nice guy, he was a younger guy, his name was Mike. He played guitar in a band, he used to sing to me all the time, and he drove the elementary school bus, which in that area means you drive all over the county, and pick up all the kids at the farms all around and take them to the elementary school. So I used to ride with him, he was really sweet and really good to me. Um, he was only around for less than a year, before she brought home her next boyfriend who was then her next husband.

Paul: She was married to this guy so then they divorced, okay.

Ronnie: Yeah they got married—

Paul: How many times has your mom been married?

Ronnie: Six.

Paul: Wow.

Ronnie: And my dad was married, hold on I gotta think—

Paul: That’s not good.

Ronnie: I know.

Paul: That’s not good when you gotta pause and think.

Ronnie: I gotta think.

Paul: When you need an abacus to count the step parents.

Ronnie: Five, my dad was married five times.

Paul: Wow. Uh, so, then, after um, Mike, she had a, the next boyfriend and is this the guy, the trouble? The trouble guy?

Ronnie: Yeah, this the biggest piece of crap on the planet, they were so well suited to each other. But that was the thing with Mike, when Mike was there, he loved the kids and we all hung out together, and we got to see her. As soon as this other guy showed up, she put a padlock on the outside of her bedroom door, and one on the inside so it would always be locked to us, and she would come home and go straight in there. She had her own refrigerator full of food, her own TV, the only air conditioner in her house was in her bedroom window in that room—

Paul: In Kentucky.

Ronnie: In Kentucky. Right on the river, we were right on the river—

Paul: Oh man, that is so brutally hot and humid in the summer.

Ronnie: Muggy and gross. But...

Paul: What, what do you remember thinking and feeling when she would come home, do you remember thinking or feeling anything when she would come home and go right into her room?

Ronnie: I was pretty much used to that. I mean, when I was really little, everything was my dad. My earliest memories of my dad are just white pants, from like the knees down. Because that was all I ever saw in his nursing uniform. It just, his legs as he’s getting ready for work. I didn’t talk to anybody. I was a weirdly, solitary, quiet kid.

Paul: You were a burgeoning writer.

Ronnie: I was. I was, I was reading, before I got into kindergarten, I was ready to go, because I never had anything else to do.

Paul: And did Joanne teach you how to read and write?

Ronnie: No.

Paul: No.

Ronnie: No, I would credit that to my brother, my older half-brother. After Joanne was gone and my mom was never around, everything was my brother.

Paul: Your half-brother from your mom’s uh, marriage before she married your dad, there were two siblings, an older guy, and an older girl. And what were their names?

Ronnie: Billy and Laney.

Paul: Billy and Laney. And um, and Billy was, was, talk about your relationship with Billy before things went wrong.

Ronnie: Billy was the closest thing I had to a parent. We were really close, and it, and it, we were still brothers and sisters. He would taunt me and pick on me, just mercilessly.

Paul: But there was a love underneath it.

Ronnie: There was. Every, once he wasn’t around his friends and stuff, I shared a room with him after my sister just completely lost her mind, I couldn’t share a room with her anymore, so I shared a room with him. And he would sing to me until I fell asleep. And when he was studying he would have me ask him the questions, so I would learn what he was learning. And I learned a lot of stuff, you know?

Paul: When your half-sister lost her mind, what do you, what do you mean?

Ronnie: Uh, there was an incident when I was, not quite in elementary school where she was caught out in the middle of the woods behind the school with a line of boys taking turns.

Paul: Oh no.

Ronnie: Yeah. And when I stopped sleeping in her room it was because my mom’s male friends were sleeping with her, with me in the bed. And I just—

Paul: Did you know what was going on?

Ronnie: Yeah. Yeah.

Paul: You knew what, you knew at that age, that they were, that they were having sex?

Ronnie: Yeah.

Paul: Really?

Ronnie: Yep.

Paul: And so you were what, like five at that point?

Ronnie: I was, I was probably, six seven at that point, but yeah.

Paul: That just boggles my mind how anybody could, first of all, you’re having sex with your girlfriends daughter, and on top of it, her younger daughter is laying right next to her in the bed. And that, and this happened on more than one occasion?

Ronnie: Yeah, but the one time that was sort of the last straw for me was I was actually awake when the guy came in, and he actually shoved me out of the bed. He just like pushed me off the bed, and I didn’t want to say anything, what are you going to say? Like—

Paul: It’s my fucking bed.

Ronnie: Yeah, like, ‘what the hell, dude?’ right? So I just started crying, I just started crying and I through—

Paul: Someone’s gonna come.

Ronnie: ‘Someone’s gonna hear me and someone’s gonna help me. Someone’s gonna do something because this isn’t right’, and nobody came. And so I walked out into the hallway, and our hallway was really narrow, but there was one of those big hall closets with the sliding wood doors. And you know, if you bump those, it makes a lot of noise, right? And so I’m crying and really laying it on like, ‘uh huh huh’, like trying to get somebody to come help me, and nobody did, so I just started elbowing that door. And I was nailing that door, and finally my brother got up, um, his bedroom was in the hall just down from ours, and he’s like, ‘come on, you can come sleep in here’. And after that I just stayed in his room.

Paul: Yeah, and that felt safe.

Ronnie: Yeah, it was safe. I couldn’t sleep unless he was touching me, unless he had his hand on my shoulder or on my elbow or on my arm, I couldn’t sleep at all.

Paul: That’s so sleep thought that, that that thought that somebody is that person to us, that we feel safe, especially when there’s all that kind of chaos outside, swirling, and then, and then your relationship with him deteriorated. Do you want to get into that?

Ronnie: Well—

Paul: What’s, what’s the next place to, to go in this story, you tell me.

Ronnie: It’s hard to say. I mean, once, once my dad moved out, he had adopted those other two kids, so they were his kids too, but they never—

Paul: Because your mom was, couldn’t...handle them.

Ronnie: I don’t know. She, was just broken. She was broken and I don’t know—

Paul: She must have had a terrible, terrible childhood.

Ronnie: Probably. Both of her parents were alcoholics. Irish...nothing against the Irish.

Paul: Hey, my people, say no more. I get it.

Ronnie: But, you know, the Hunts were Irish, so um, but she uh, she was barely a parent, and I think part of it was being married to her, my dad adopted the kids. And they still have his last name, but he never treated them that way. So we had visitation and I cannot tell you how old I was the first time I went to visit him, but I’m sure I was still five. And the first place we went to visit him was his girlfriend’s house, the woman that he was cheating on my mother with. Was his girlfriend, and he was living with her, right after he left. And we went to visit her, and she was, satan on a stick. She was just the worst creature. And um, was really horrible to the two older kids, and treated me a little bit better, and so they stopped going, so the visitation—

Paul: Who was the adult in the home now at this point? Ostensibly your mom, but she really wasn’t ever there.

Ronnie: No.

Paul: Okay, so you were basically being raised by your, by your older half-brother at that point.

Ronnie: Yes.

Paul: And so you would go visit your dad who was now living with, his new girlfriend, and yeah, I remember in the book, uh you talk about, she would be one way to you around your dad, and then when he would leave she would be a completely different person to you. What are some of the things she would do and say to your when your dad wasn’t around?

Ronnie: Mostly, um, until he left, for good—

Paul: Left her for good, or do you mean left—

Ronnie: He left me, he left me, but it, you know, when he was out of the room or whatever, it was mostly the tone and little things like, ‘you’re a filthy animal. How do you behave this way? Sit up straight. Cross your legs. Fix your hair. Why is your face so bad? Why is your skin so bad? Why do you bite your nails? You have monkey fingers, what’s wrong with you?’. And just things like that, I mean, I wasn’t human to her, ever.

Paul: Wow. And you were how old at this point?

Ronnie: Well that went on until I was about 10, six to 10.

Paul: And uh, what’s the next, what’s the next...

Ronnie: I think the next big thing that happened was, um, the big thing. My mother was working at the hospital in Cairo, Illinois which is across, just right across the river. A lot of people worked there. And she was—

Paul: And this is not the hospital your father worked at?

Ronnie: No, he, he worked at Lourdes Catholic Hospital in Paducah, and she was gone all the time, and when she was home she was locked in the room with her new husband, Clifford. Never Cliff, always Clifford. Hated this guy, he was like this unemployed, hippy, douchebag that she married. He was horrible. Um, and he was hateful, he would make fun of me all the time about how awkward and graceless I am, and funny looking and whatever, just all the time. And um, finally when I was about eight, my older half-sister and half-brother got, the Upward Bound deal where they got to stay at the college in Murray for the summer. Because we were poor, you know, we were food-stamp-family Robinson. We like, never had money, or anything. And, they went away for the summer, and so I was left home alone. And to me I didn’t have a huge problem with that. I thought I was was Huck Finn. I would go outside and run around in the woods all day, and get ticks in my hair, and pick blackberries and eat and I just had like, the greatest time, being by myself all day outside. But at night I would come in and it’s 100 and some degrees and 98 percent humidity and I’m sitting in the living room watching cable TV that we stole, and, finally one night, Clifford came lurking out of the bedroom, and he said, ‘you know, why don’t you come in here and watch TV with me, I have an air conditioner’. And, two things made me say yes; yes I want to be in air conditioning, and he was never nice to me, and he was being nice to me. And, I wanted somebody to pay attention to me, I was, this solitary kid all the time. Um, not treated well at school because my family was whitetrash. And in a town that small—

Paul: You stick out—

Ronnie: That means something. So, I went, and, um, laid in the bed with him, and he was watching soft-core porn, this—

Paul: You’re how old at this point?

Ronnie: Eight. Eight. And—

Paul: And boy that, that is the thing that, that, the pedophile absolutely preys on, is a child’s neediness for attention. That is the fishing lure, you know?

Ronnie: Well if you think about it, it’s like that, that book The Game. He was negging me, he was putting me down all the time so that any sort of faint praise or niceness from him would be soaked up like a sponge.

Paul: Yeah, yeah.

Ronnie: Anyway I, he’s watching soft-core porn, and I’m thinking nothing of it, I’m like, ‘well this is cool, I get to hang out where the big kids go’ like, ‘this is awesome’. And that night, um, that first night I woke up in the middle of the night and he was in top of me, and I couldn’t breath because he was, huge dude—

Paul: You were eight. He was an adult.

Ronnie: He was big. He was really heavy. And um, I managed to push him off, and my underwear was on the floor, which I had had on to begin with. And I just grabbed it and went across the hall to my room and laid down and, and I thought that was weird. But he was acting like he was asleep. I’m sure he wasn’t asleep.

Paul: No.

Ronnie: But he was acting like he was asleep so I had that, that doubt in my mind that was like, if I don’t say anything about this it’ll just go away. It’ll just go away.

Paul: You sure he wasn’t just a pedophile sleepwalker?

Ronnie: He was, he was the, the pedophile sub-nebuloused. Yeah.

Paul: They, they wake up in the middle of the night. They go to the closet, put on a trenchcoat and then walk around the neighborhood.

Ronnie: Hand out candy. He even had a van.

Paul: OH NO.

Ronnie: He did.

Paul: He should go to jail just for that.

Ronnie: He had this big, blue windowless van with the flying guitar from Boston’s album cover painted on the side.

Paul: Double! Life sentence. Life sentence. Oh my god.

Ronnie: He was really bad. He was so stereotypically horrible, but um, but that happened and then, it kept happening, and I didn’t know how to say no to him. Um, and he got where he was really pressing about it. And—

Paul: Was there any dialogue between you two or was it always just a wordless thing?

Ronnie: It was wordless. He would wait until I fell asleep, and there was a night where I woke up and I, went into the bathroom, and I woke up and there was semen all over my face.

Paul: Oh my god.

Ronnie: All over my cheek. And I was just, ashamed, that’s what I felt. I was ashamed, I was like, ‘I’m going to get in trouble’.

Paul: From, from who? Your mom? Or, I mean who did you, who did you think you were going to get in trouble from?

Ronnie: Well I knew my mom would, pick him over me—

Paul: Right.

Ronnie: Which she ended up doing. Um, but I just thought ‘I’m not supposed to be here. I’m somewhere I’m not supposed to be and this is my fault because I shouldn’t be here’.

Paul: Oh and that’s the worst, when a little kid thinks it’s their fault, that its just, ohhh, it’s just gasoline on the fire. It’s so awful.

Ronnie: It was, and it was, this is the thing that I’ve come to realize about, the way my childhood was, people always say, ‘well how, how did you live with that? How did you deal with that?’. Dude, you’re 10 years old, you have no basis for comparison.

Paul: You don't. That’s your normal.

Ronnie: You don’t know what a normal childhood is. It’s not abuse if it’s something that happens to you everyday, that’s normal. That’s not abusive.

Paul: In your mind that’s not abusive.

Ronnie: Exactly. I mean you don’t have, it’s not like you sit there and think, ‘I’m suffering through this horrible mistreatment’, you think, ‘this is another day in my life, this is what it is’.

Paul: Uh huh. Here’s my three to four o’clock slot, let’s get through this, and then let’s find something that makes us happy. And that’s, you know, that’s the early coping mechanism I think of a lot of kids, that go through abusive times, and, and why often they become sort of obsessive compulsive is because, you, your hunger for something that does make you feel safe or happy or alive becomes so intense. In becomes magical, the things that take you out of yourself. Take you out of that horrible, horrible thing. So what, did you have anything that kind of, uh, became your, your go to, was it books, or, what was it?

Ronnie: School. A, a lot of it. I really, I always, had this thing where I can deal with, whatever kind of chaos there is, as long as it’s chaos that takes place within a structure. Once I have a structure, a regimen, a normal routine, anything else that happens, fine. I can deal with that, as long as I have this routine. And school was that thing. I spent most of my day at school. It was the only time I was away from my horrible house, and my horrible parents, and—

Paul: And you were good at school?

Ronnie: I was good at school. Teachers loved me...when I wasn’t correcting their grammar. I was such an asshole kid, but I mean, I lived in the south, well it’s really the midwest, but they think it’s the south. But there’s a lot of, you know, pig farmer’s wives that were teaching elementary school. They don’t know what they’re doing. So I had to tell them. But, um, and that was the deal. I didn’t really have friends. I had one friend growing up, and she moved away right before all this shit started happening. It’s, it was like a, a pattern where somebody would leave. They left me. My brother left me and this horrible thing happened. My dad left and this horrible thing happened. My best friend moved away and left me and this is what happens. So, yeah, big issues with people just leaving me.

Paul: Yeah, you’re fear of abandonment must be really intense.

Ronnie: It’s better, but it is to blame for a lot of the shit I got into in my 20s.

Paul: Yeah. Uh, so let’s fast-forward then you, you, because if we’re, if we’re gonna get into the details of all this stuff, this would probably be a 10 hour interview—

Ronnie: Yeah, there’s a lot.

Paul: So, you came forward and said what was happening.

Ronnie: Yeah. Here’s what happened, after a couple of years of this, he ended up in the hospital for something. I’m assuming it’s drug related at this point, I have no idea.

Paul: Probably van related.

Ronnie: It was probably, it was probably you know, some sort of, tainted candy situation. But he uh, he was in the hospital and I didn’t know if he was ever coming back. And we were sitting around in the living room, me and my mother, and brother and sister, and we were sitting around and they were talking about him, you know, maybe not coming back and I just said, ‘I’m glad he’s not here and I hope he never comes back’. And they said ‘why?’. And I said, ‘because he, you know, he touches me, and he made me take a shower with him and made me watch him play with himself in the shower. And I didn’t like it’. And saying it, there was about a millisecond where I felt like, ‘everything’s going to be okay now’, because I was able to say this. And then my mom laughed at me and said, ‘he didn’t do anything I didn’t tell him to do’. And right then, that’s that moment where everything just fucking collapsed. Like not only, did I only not get help. Not only was I not saved because I said what happened. But now I have to deal with the fucking ridicule, and know that he’s coming back, and know that she is on his side.

Paul: That’s like, that’s like worse than, a horror movie. It’s...I’m just speechless, and I read this in your book, so I knew this was coming, but just hearing it again, how fucked up mentally and emotionally your mom must be? How much self-hatred she must have that she needs to take her hatred out on her own fucking child? Um, I, I don't even know what to say. I don’t even know what to say. And I apologize to anyone listening to this if this is getting really dark, and, um, depressing, but, I feel like, there aren’t, there aren’t that many places where, we can be honest about stuff that is this dark and depressing, and, I don’t know.

Ronnie: The only, the only reason that, it’s okay for it to be this dark, is that it doesn’t stay that way. I am perfectly fine now. It got better, it gets better. That’s the important thing. If I could go back in time and see that kid, I would say, ‘don’t worry, it’s, it get’s better. Everything will be fine, you’ll be fine. It get’s better’. That’s it. That’s all I needed anyone ever to tell me. But no one did. I had to figure it out myself.

Paul: And in some ways, I know this sounds like me being that annoying optimist, but in some ways, there is a gift in you having to get to that place by yourself, because you have to develop skills and certain insights, and it sucks that your survival depends upon it, but there’s a strength that you develop by being the only person on your side. Or being the only person leading the charge. That has payoffs down the line.

Ronnie: Oh yeah.

Paul: Can you talk about that?

Ronnie: Well, the uh, when somebody hands something like that to you, when somebody gives it to you, you never appreciate it as much as when you discover it on your own. And it, it took, a lot, it took a lot for me to realize that, you know, this is, this is the one life I get, and I don’t need this bullshit. I got to use this time. And, it it took a long time, but I, I got there. I’m there now.

Paul: And, and the other thing too that you have to make the conscious decision, is am I gonna be on their side and view myself as a piece of shit, or am I gonna be on my side and say, ‘hey you don’t fucking deserve this, let’s ask for help, or let’s do whatever we gotta do to better our situation’. Because a lot of people believe, the way they were treated is what they deserve. I think it take a, it takes something almost superhuman to uh, work your, your, when nobody has ever told you you’re special and you matter, and all this other stuff. It’s, I think it’s rare to be able to work yourself out of that, because it doesn’t come naturally the ability to say, ‘I’m worth it. I’m, I’m not gonna take this shit anymore. I’m gonna heal’.

Ronnie: I think the thing that worked for me the best, when I was about 15, I realized that if you take this label off of this person, dad, mom, step-mom, and you look at them as just a person that you know, just another person that you know, you can see how truly fucked up and broken they are as a person, and you know that anything they’re doing to you is because they are fucked up and broken. And that was the thing that made the difference for me. I looked at my dad and I was like, ‘yeah you are not the end of everything, you are a guy who had a kid when you were 27, and you had no fucking skills to take care of that situation, and you spent all that time thinking about yourself. And the way I am has fuck-all to do with you. This is me. I’ll go get my own outside influences, I don’t need your shit’. And it made a huge difference.

Paul: Is it worth getting into, the courtroom stuff? Maybe we could sort of fast-forward to that, or you’d rather not talk about that?

Ronnie: Yeah we can. I mean I, let’s just summarize the situation as this, the state gave my dad custody for neglect. I was extremely underweight, I had like, scurvy, I hadn’t, like malnutrition. I was in horrible condition. And the state moved in and took me away from my mom and gave me to my dad. And the first thing they talked about was summer visitation, but summer was when all the shit was happening. I didn’t want to be there in the summer because I didn’t want to be alone with Clifford all the time. I didn’t want to do it. So I broke down and admitted to my step-mother why I didn’t want visitation. And she did not believe me. She made me describe what a penis looks like. She made me describe what semen looks like before she would even listen to me. She’s nuts.

Paul: And then did she listen to you?

Ronnie: Yeah, and then she told my dad. And then it turned into a, a court case against my mother and my step-father because she was in the bed some of the time, she was there.

Paul: Your mom was?

Ronnie: Yeah.

Paul: That is, that is it’s own, that’s just mind-blowing, mind-blowing to me. What do you think your mom, got out of, do you think there was an enjoyment on her part, or do you think this was just a way of trying to keep Clifford around?

Ronnie: I think it was the latter. He probably couldn’t get it up unless there was a kid in the room. That’s how I feel about him, I think he was just fucking twisted.

Paul: So would he have sex with her and you would be laying there, or he would have sex with you and she would be laying there?

Ronnie: It would start out with him, rubbing up on me, until he, you know, and then she would jump in.

Paul: And take over from there.

Ronnie: Yeah.

Paul: But your mom didn’t do anything to you, other than being there in this horrible situation?

Ronnie: No because then she would have to acknowledge that I actually existed, god forbid.

Paul: I can’t imagine what, what kind of, core message that buries in you when  your mom treats you like that. But let’s fast-forward, you spilled the beans about what was happening and um, and then what happened?

Ronnie: Then the trial started. I had to repeat my story so many times, to so many counselors, attorneys, blah blah blah, by the time the trial came, I want to say about a year later, I was numb. I was numb to it. It was all technical dates, times, durations, incidents on a timeline. I had told the story so many times, that by the time the trial came, it was just a story to me. I had no emotional attachment to it—

Paul: How could you? How could any person?

Ronnie: Completely compartmentalized.

Paul: How could any person, survive bringing that pain up again and again and again to fucking strangers?

Ronnie: Yeah, and they were all patronizing, irritating people. And I was a kid, don’t talk to me like I’m a baby. I’m not a baby. But, um, I had gone through it so many times so, we were getting, pretty close to trial time, and at this point my dad’s carrying a loaded gun with him everywhere in case he runs into my step-father or my mother, because he’s going to kill them. He’s gone to, he’s gone to the sheriff in town and said, ‘if I see these people I’m going to kill them, you need to lock me up’, and the sheriff said, ‘here’s what you do, you wait until they’re in the courtroom, you walk in, you unload the gun, drive fire a couple of times, drop it, put your hands up and we’ll call it insanity and you’ll be fine’. That’s what the sheriff said.

Paul: Wow.

Ronnie: So my dad was unstable and he was furious and he, um, he was just not in a good place.

Paul: But this is, this is when you still felt, that your dad was on your side, right? Because you and your dad had a falling out later.

Ronnie: Later. Yeah it was later.

Paul: But you still felt like, at this point you still felt like some love and safety around him.

Ronnie: Oh yeah, I was like, ‘oh my dad loves me. He loves me enough to kill for me. He is going to make everything better’.

Paul: That had to feel good on a sick level, right?

Ronnie: Oh, I thought my dad was awesome. I thought he was the greatest dad, ever. No he was horrible, he was an alcoholic, he was a terrible person, but he, you know, he was my dad and I thought he was just the greatest thing, ‘cause he saved me from my mother. So, that’s going on, then the next thing we know, my house, that I grew up in, burned to the ground. It’s a brick house. This isn’t something that isn’t just going to catch on fire randomly in a lightning storm, this is a brick house. Arson, obviously. But we don't know who did it and, the house was still in my dad’s name, and she, you know, lived there. Um—

Paul: But wait, hold on, who’s—

Ronnie: My mother’s house.

Paul: Why would, if she was out to get you, your, your mom and the step-dad, why would they burn the house that they live in?

Ronnie: I don’t know. Why would they? They didn’t. My dad did.

Paul: Really?

Ronnie: Yeah.

Paul: Oh, ‘cause he couldn’t shoot them, so might as well burn their house down, even though it’s in his name, that’s how badly he wanted it.

Ronnie: Yes. And he was hoping they were in it, but it turned out they weren’t.

Paul: I see.

Ronnie: They weren’t there. Nobody was there.

Paul: Okay. Now this hasn’t been proven, this is your opinion, right? I just want to cover my ass legally—

Ronnie: He’s dead dude.

Paul: Oh, your dads dead.

Ronnie: Yeah.

Paul: He burned the house down.

Ronnie: He burned the house down. He told me when I was 15 that he was the one that burned the house down.

Paul: Oh he did? Okay.

Ronnie: And I didn’t put it in the book because he still was alive at the time I wrote the book, but he died in 2006, from drinking himself to death. He’s dead, what are they gonna do? He burned the house down. So, I didn’t know that, and I was crushed. That was my house, everything I owned, which was not much, I had, this is so dumb, the only trophy I had ever earned was from a spelling bee. I was in third grade, and I beat all of the middle school kids in a spelling bee, and I got a trophy for it. It was the only thing I had. My only accomplishment, burned up in the house, and I was devastated, I was just destroyed. You know? But, I was bummed that the house was gone, but my first concern was that, did anyone else in the neighborhood get hurt? Because there was an older couple that was next door. That’s what I cared about, and my step-mother was just livid. She was disgusted with me, that I even cared about other than my dad’s financial ruin because the house was destroyed. Cunt. Anyway, she was a horrible person. And, um, we went to see it and it was just, small, it was the size of the living room of the house I was living in, very small. And it was so sad to just see bricks and cinders, and that’s all there was. But, right after that, I, well I, my my older step-sister, leveled counter accusations saying that my dad molested her. And, that may or may not be true. My dad was a real piece of work, but at the time, it was just a tactic to distract attention from the case. Anyway, one day I go to school and come home and he’s gone. He’s just gone and my step-mother is sitting at the table in the dining room with a piece of paper in her hand, and she’s just said, ‘this piece of paper is a power of attorney which means I own you now, and you are a filthy fucking animal, and I can’t stand the sight of you. So you better pray to god that you don’t do anything wrong, before this trial comes, because I will fucking kill you. Now go wash the dishes’.

Paul: Wow.

Ronnie: And I was like, okay, like I just felt the floor fall out from under me. I thought I was saved.

Paul: Where did your dad go?

Ronnie: My dad, and a friend of his from Tennessee drove to Utah and got jobs at a hospital in Utah.

Paul: In the middle of the trial?

Ronnie: Yep. He was leaving town, he was leaving town to be, so that he wouldn’t get arrested for burning the house down. And he had an alibi. He worked in an emergency room, and everyone there covered for him in that nice southern justice. You know? But, uh, he left, he just left, he didn’t tell me he was leaving or where he was going, he was just gone. Moved out, gone. Left me with her.

Paul: How could this woman not have any compassion for a kid who's going through what this kid is going through? That just boggles my mind, it just boggles my mind. I understand how people in moments can do things that are, that are mean, that they regret later, but the, the level of sustained, lack of compassion and just outright meanness, where the fuck does that come from?

Ronnie: Oh I can tell you. I have a theory. Um, to her, at first she hated me because I represented my mother and she was married to my dad. After that, she hated me because I represented my father, and he was a horrible, alcoholic husband who beat her. She hated me.

Paul: And she couldn’t confront him and stand up to him, so who can she, who can she...

Ronnie: I mean, can you imagine if you had a little walking reminder, a near clone of the person who abused you your whole life, how are you gonna feel about them?

Paul: Isn’t it fucked up how, like the most normal thing in the world, the most common thing in the world is to get abused, and then take that abuse out on people who had nothing to do with your abuse. That is, that’s so fucked up, and it’s so common. It’s so common. Or you turn that, that abuse into self-hatred and, you know....So all that negative energy that you were absorbing, how did that come out of you? What, what, how did you, how did you cope? What...

Ronnie: Straight A student. Um, gifted class. It was school, because at school I was normal. My friends liked me. Kids liked me. I was funny. I was smart. I was fun. As soon as she showed up, I shut down like a robot with a switch. Would not look up. Don’t make eye contact with anybody. Don’t talk. Don’t move. Don’t scratch. Don’t do anything.

Paul: Because everything would get criticized.

Ronnie: Not just criticized. I never knew what it was I was doing to set her off. She would beat the fuck out of me. She chipped all my teeth. She would strangle me until I pass out. She threw me down a flight of damn stairs, she was just, I can’t even tell you how many bloody noses I had in that year between when my dad left and when the trial came. And even during the trial, she was just a nightmare and I never knew what it was I was doing or what it was that set her off. I never knew. And I was terrified to do anything or say anything, at all. It was, you just, you just don’t know. And so everything is off limits, because you are just a bad person. She was horrible. Um, but the trial got delayed because I was making crafts and I accidentally cut my thumb off with a pair of scissors, just the tip of it. I had to get stitches and stuff, and they didn’t want me on the stand with an injury because that would make her look like a bad mother, ha ha. So they delayed the trial until that came off so finally we had the trial, and it seemed like everyone I had ever trusted for anything testified against me. My preacher of the church I went to for years and years, stood up in the courtroom and yelled that I was possessed by the devil and that I was going to hell. My third grade teacher got up there and lied, she lied about me. She hated me. She paddled me every day. Every day. I never got recess for a year and she got up there and said what a good student I was and how well adjusted and normal and happy I was. But I was very creative and I liked telling stories so I was probably making it up. And my brother and sister testified against me. And I was there in the trial up until the point when my brother testified, and then they took me out because all he did was sit on the um, stand and yell at me and ask me why I was doing this to the family. And I didn’t get to see the rest of it. But my part came and—

Paul: And this was your brother that you had felt so close to—

Ronnie: He was my brother, I mean, he was everything to me. And he was crying. He was really hurt by this because he was drinking her Kool-aid, my mothers, and he thought that I was lying, and he couldn’t understand why I had turned on him.

Paul: And especially, did you say what your mom had said that, ‘I told him to do it’?

Ronnie: He was there. They were all there.

Paul: No I’m saying your, had that come out in the trial, that what your mom, your mom’s complicity in it.

Ronnie: Yeah. Oh yeah. She—

Paul: So your brother got to hear that about his mom. That not only did she not defend you, but she almost kind of mocked you and threw you to Clifford.

Ronnie: He was there when she said that. The whole family was there—

Paul: Oh! When you said ‘he’s touching me’—

Ronnie: Yes!

Paul: He said—well then why would your brother be upset later that and say that you were lying if he was there when she said it?

Ronnie: Oh, she was so good at manipulating people and lying and convincing people that—he believed, up until I was in my 20s and I talked to him again, but he believed at the time, that nothing untoward had ever happened. That it was never inappropriate. That it was just me exaggerating or making things up, because I wanted to live with my dad. So, he was on her side.

Paul: Right.

Ronnie: But, it was, it was horrible, he was really torn up by it. He was just, hysterical on the stand. And of course I was really crying because, that was my brother. He was the only person I had. He was the only family I had. And, um, I was doing that to him. I did that to him. Like I could've just let it go, I couldve said nothing at all and none of that would’ve happened. My dad would still be at home and everything would be fine. And it wasn’t fine. Because I had to, make this situation happen. And so I was in a courtroom sitting next to my step-mother who beat the shit out of me, looking at my whole family, and my teachers and my preacher, and people that I knew from town, sitting on her side of the courtroom, in the gallery, staring at me like I was the worst person on the planet. It was really hard.

Paul: That had to of, maybe I’m wrong here, but maybe on some level that felt worse that the molestation itself.

Ronnie: Well sure it did. Sure it did. Yeah. ‘Cause at least when I was being molested he was paying attention to me. You know? And all of those people, the thing with the preacher being there really really really hurt. Because my, my parents never went to church. I went to church. I walked to the end of the neighborhood and got a ride with, um, the town sheriff and his wife to church. That was my church and he was over there sitting with them, judging me. It was hard, it was really hard.

Paul: What is it with churches and handling pedophilia that they just can’t get it right?

Ronnie: I don’t know but I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m atheist now. Anyway, anyway. My time came to be on the stand. And I have to tell this part of the story because this is really important because this has, this is something that has really messed with me for a long time. This one little incident. Um, I was wearing a dress, they dressed me up in a dress and curled my hair and made me look really girly, so I would be fragile and feminine.

Paul: And you were kind of a tomboy?

Ronnie: Total tomboy. Total tomboy. And, um, so I was sitting there and, Martha, this is my step-mother, leans over and whispers something to me about crossing my legs, when I’m up on the stand. And I can’t really hear her, but I’m never going to ask her to repeat herself, oh jesus no. And I assumed that she’s telling me to remember to keep my legs crossed, so that I don’t sit like a sprawled-knee boy in a dress on the stand. Reasonable assumption. So, I get up there to testify and, you know, I cross my legs, but I’m nervous and terrified, and they’re asking me all these questions. And so I’m crossing and uncrossing my legs, and kind of fidgeting, 10 year old kid. I’m not a model. I’m not poised. Um, and, you know, they ask all the question, and they ask if I ever knew my mom to take drugs. And yeah, I did, she did, there were so many drugs in that house. Oh! Huge parties, it was debauchery, 24-7. Um, but and I said, ‘yes, oh and there was that time that she ODed and I found her’. And, asked all the questions about her. And then it was over, the part about her. Because, two trials. Her and him, at the same time. And uh, that was over and we left, for to recess, to go get lunch and we walked out to the car, and everything’s normal, and I’m basically up in my own head, like I can’t, I just can’t think. And we get in the car, and she drives down the street, turns into the parking lot of the church that I went to all those years, very close to the courthouse. Parks the car, reaches over and slaps the fuck out of me, just out of nowhere. Bam! Like right across the face. And she said, ‘I told you not to cross your legs on the stand, and now you’re sitting up there looking all casual, and if your mom is acquitted, it’s your fucking fault. Because you didn’t do what I told you to do’. And starts the car and drives off to the restaurant to get lunch. And for years, and years and years, I thought, ‘she’s right’. Because my mom was acquitted. She was found not guilty. No wrong doing there. And that was my fault because I didn’t do what she said.

Paul: And you believed that for years?

Ronnie: Years. Years. And I still wonder sometimes, I wonder sometimes. I—

Paul: You realize that’s crazy.

Ronnie: I wasn’t sad enough. I wasn’t hurt enough. I wasn’t broken enough to convince them that she had done wrong. That’s...

Paul: And you blame yourself?

Ronnie: Sure. Sure. And, and you know, we went back and I testified against him, and was obviously horrified in a horrible state of mind because she slapped the hit out of me. So, and he was convicted, but if my mom had not been acquitted, he might have actually done jail time, instead she paid and attorney and he never did jail time. He got probation.

Paul: Did they make him repaint his van?

Ronnie: I fucking hope so.

Paul: That is unbelievable. That is unbelieveable that any, and by the way I apologize for the jokes. Sometimes when things get really dark that’s the only way I know how to, how to deal with, uh, with shit.

Ronnie: I’m smiling.

Paul: You’re a trooper. You’re a trooper for calling all this stuff up, Ronnie. I uh, I appreciate it. And um, so let’s fast-forward to the, where you started to be your friend instead of your enemy. Because you went through, in the book you, you talk about, how you, you know, you went through a rebelieous kind of phase, and did a lot of drugs, and I, I think you were, were you promiscuous?

Ronnie: Oh, oh my god yes.

Paul: Which is so typical for people who have been sexually abused. They tend to either shut down and become like sexually anorexic or become like really really promiscuous. So you went through a promiscuous phase—

Ronnie: Because sex equals love.

Paul: Yeah. And power probably too.

Ronnie: It was approval. If, if someone will have sex with you, that means that they like you as a person and you’re a good person. Not, no. Children, no.

Paul: Yeah well, let’s hope no children are listening—actually I would be okay with children listening to this, a lot of parents probably would find this too, too intense for kids to listen to. But a lot of this stuff is the stuff that I think we should, maybe not in the way we present it here, but this is the stuff kids should be taught. This is the stuff, you, you need to know. Like what you said about, um, sometimes you need to take the label off of a person and see them for their actions and who they are. Um, and then just kind of find you, your family and the people that love, and maybe make them your family if you don’t have family that are, that are like that. But you know I, I was struck when you were talking about the step-mom slapping you and telling you that, that you weren't listening to her. The thought occurred to me that she probably was sexually abused and hated the fact that you reminder her of, and this is just my dime store opinion, but you reminded her of the fact that she was never able to speak up for herself.

Ronnie: That’s, that’s very likely actually.

Paul: Yeah. You know, so, so often times when someone hates us, it has nothing to do with us, but what we represent to their own, self-hatred. What we remind them they failed to do in their mind, or failed t become in their mind.

Ronnie: Actually she told me that, she got pregnant in highschool and she had an abortion, and the baby would have been my age. Almost exactly.

Paul: Oh yeah.

Ronnie: So—

Paul: Might have had guilt about having the abortion.

Ronnie: Yeah, yeah I’m not winning prizes with this woman.

Paul: Yeah. yeah. So, you, you went through your kind of rebellious phase, and then, at what point did you realize, I need help, I, I can’t deal with this—did you ever get suicidal?

Ronnie: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Paul: Any attempts?

Ronnie: I thought we were going there actually. About a year after the trial I was 12, um, less than 75 pounds, big glasses, hair parted down the middle. Um, acne, you know, the standard. Big teeth, awkward kid. I got teased really bad though. Picked on just really bad. A kid set my hair on fire while we were waiting in line for the bus, and nobody did anything about it.

Paul: Oh my god.

Ronnie: The teachers did nothing. And it was, he, he apologized since then, uh but, it was a just horrific year for me. It was horrible. And on top of that, I started having these like crazy outbursts, mood swings, just um, we didn’t know. I didn’t know about my mother, I didn’t know what her deal was, I just knew she was nuts. Um, but, I remember, at one point I had a fit and just went berserk because my step-mother, new step-mother, um, wouldn't let me wear makeup.

Paul: So the woman that was slapping you was out of the picture now?

Ronnie: Oh yeah.

Paul: And your dad was with a new—

Ronnie: Twelfth birthday they got in a fit, she walked in the room, and knocked the shit out of me, and he grabbed her by the hair like a Barbie doll and tossed her across the room. Coolest thing I ever saw. I hated that woman. And then we left and I found out the whole time I had been stuck in Kentucky with this woman beating me, he was living with a woman, a girlfriend. Who had three kids. Who then became my step-family, so...

Paul: You, you are the superbowl of Cops.

Ronnie: It was ridiculous.

Paul: I can only assume that people were barefoot and not wearing shirts when a lot of this was happening.

Ronnie: I wish. No, nothing that cool. It was really, it comes out of nowhere when you see a guy in scrubs beat the crap out of a woman.

Paul: Oh my god. Um, so...

Ronnie: So new step-mother wouldn’t let me wear makeup, and, I think she was trying to reign in, you know I lost my virginity at 12, it was rape, but I said he was my boyfriend so that makes it okay. So she was trying to reign me in and keep me innocent as long as I could, but because I couldn't’ wear makeup I was just sure that wearing makeup would keep the kids from picking on me. So I had this huge outburst, and my dad comes in and is like, ‘let her wear makeup, what the fuck? This isn’t worth this’. And then, a few months went by after all of that mess and we were in eighth grade and I had another one of those incidents where I just lost my goddamn mind. I don’t even remember what it was about. I was suffering from insomnia, recurring nightmares, I felt like I wasn’t sleeping, really sleeping. And by January, I had, I just lost it, I was just screaming and crying and, I don’t even know. Was there a reason? I don’t know. I was just freaking out. And so my dad, um, he had this storage of all of these prescription drug samples that he got from the doctor he used to work for, because, free drugs, great.

Paul: Sure.

Ronnie: And, he gave me half of a 10mg Ativan, and I slept for two days on this thing. And I had gotten to the point where I was hysterical, and I could swear I could hear people yelling at me. I mean it was really bad. So, I slept for two days, and I was fine and I was normal, and then Valentine’s Day was coming, in eighth grade. And, I, could not get anyone to pay attention to me if  was on fire. I was miserable.

Paul: I mean literally.

Ronnie: Seriously.

Paul: Your hair was on fire and nobody paid attention to you.

Ronnie: My hair burned up—

Paul: You are not exaggerating.

Ronnie: No, literally. Except there was a girl that wanted to beat me up, because I tossed my hair when she was talking to me. And there was habit. Anyway, I had a crush on some boy and I, called him on the phone, and I was like, you know, ‘why don’t you like me?’. I’m miserable, I just want, you know, someone to like me. What do I have to do? And he said, ‘why don’t you kill yourself?’. And I said, ‘okay’. Hung up the phone, went in the bathroom, and took 10 of the 10mg Ativan, and died. Laid on the bed with the phone in my hand, not on purpose, and um, was laying there losing consciousness, and first mistake, called my friend. And I said, you know, ‘hey guess what? My family's been talking about moving to Portland, and I don’t have to go, because I’ll be here’. And she tried to talk to me, and I could not speak, I was going, I was fading pretty fast. And, she told her mom and her mom was drunk and so instead of calling 911, she called my dad at the hospital and said, ‘oh I think there’s something wrong with Ronnie, you should probably go check her out’. And in the meantime my step-mother showed up and found me, and she was trying, I just laugh because she wasn’t a smart woman. She was trying to get me to walk it off. Which made it infinitely worse.

Paul: Right, because then it’s flowing through your bloodstream. Your heart is pumping more.

Ronnie: See, you’re a smart man. She’s not a bright woman. So she was trying to get me to walk it off, and after that I only remember snatches of what happened. My dad showed up and gave me Ipecac—

Paul: Which makes you vomit.

Ronnie: Uh huh. To make me throw-up, which there was nothing to throw-up at that point. And he was telling me that I’m just like my mother, which is like the worst thing you could ever say to me. And based on his opinion of her. And then they took me to the hospital and they had to revive me on the table a couple of times. And I knew all of those people because they were my dad’s friends.

Paul: Right.

Ronnie: Any everybody kept saying, ‘why did you take those pills?’. And I’m like, ‘are you really that stupid?’. Like, I took them because I wanted to die. Like how hard is that to figure out? But, um, then they, after that, we went back home and they locked me up in the hospital, and that’s where the doctor diagnosed me, and was like, ‘okay, you’re bipolar and that’s...’. And at the time, bipolar was not used as a term. It was a new thing. They were trying to shake the stigma of manic depressive. And uh, put me on medication—

Paul: What, what did they call it back then?

Ronnie: It was, well it was manic depressive up to that point, and then they started saying bipolar, and I’m sure eventually they’ll think of something else to call it. Right? But—

Paul: In the 40s they called it a fucking nut job.

Ronnie: Yes, or, you know, touched. Touched in the head. Um, but uh, anyway that, so that was the first time I tried to kill myself. Right after I got out I did it again. They put me right back in there. And um, they were doing a lot of playing with the medication to try to figure out what to do with me—

Paul: Which is one of the most annoying things about being mentally ill and having drugs prescribed is it’s not, it’s not an exact science. Each person is different and there is a trial period that is so fucking frustrating. And some things will actually make your symptoms worse.

Ronnie: Oh, okay well you know lithium carbonate, it’s a metal salt, right? Well they were, they were playing with the doses, and I was getting such an off dose that I had to drink it as a syrup. Worst, thing, ever. Tastes like rusty nickels, just terrible. And then they tried something that my, diaphragm paralyzed. I was just sitting, I was just sitting  in the day room listening to them talk about our TV privileges or whatever, and I realized I cannot draw a breath. Like I am suffocated, and I just keeled over, and they go, ‘uh you’re not gonna take that anymore’.

Paul: You are a fucking miracle Ronnie Schiller. You are afucking miracle, you know? That you can sit here and smile after all this shit you’ve been through, you are a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. You are, I hope you can see that. Can you see that, and feel that in your elf? Because you really are. I mean, you, I I, just got this wave of joy, when you said that, my diaphragm got paralyzed, which  know sounds really fucked up, but it’s like, it just, that was the straw that broke the camels back and I went, ‘oh my god, she’s indestructible. She has been put here, to show people that you can, that you can take shit and fucking survive’.

Ronnie: Oh yeah. No, I really do. I mean, in all seriousness, I think that’s the only reason I’m here. That’s, that’s it. You know, no kids. I’m not doing a whole lot of anything else, I seriously think that’s why I’m here.

Paul: What are, what is an average day like for you in terms of mood, is it pretty good? Is it pretty steady? Do you find moments of peace, happiness, relaxation, or is every day kind of a struggle?

Ronnie: I, I think that I’m fairly normal. This is just like the abuse thing, you have no baseline. You don’t know what normal levels of emotion are. There was a point when I was in my early 30s where I went to the doctor and I was like, ‘no, I’m fine, like everything is good, I’m just not, I’m not thrilled with life, but I’m here’. And he asked me a few questions, and then he was like, ‘yeah, okay so what you’re experiencing is depression’. Like that’s not normal. And, you’re not doing well, what you are is depressed so we’re going to add something to your medication, and then all of a sudden, it’s like that invisible film lifts from you, you’re like, ‘oh!’—

Paul: Isn’t that amazing?

Ronnie: Oh! I was depressed.

Paul: This is what normal feels like.

Ronnie: So, yep...

Paul: You begin to be able to laugh at things. You begin to feel little surges of joy, of pleasure, and things, and excitement.

Ronnie: It’s the hope.

Paul: Yeah.

Ronnie: It’s the hopelessness. I mean, um, part of being diagnosed when I was 12 with bipolar, is I have had, all of this time, to understand what is influencing the changes. People who are diagnosed as adults don’t stay on their meds, they think that their real personality is whatever it was before they got the medication. I had the benefit of developing my personality through those years knowing that, um, there is a difference between the modd and myself. And you can tell the difference. Um, you know, when it, when I start to get manic I realize I am making snap decisions. Like at first it’s fun, everybody thinks it’s fun. Everybody thinks you’re funny, blah blah blah, but you can feel like, I’m making snap decisions. Or I’m making plans that I am never going to finish—

Paul: Grandiose.

Ronnie: Oh, so—

Paul: Super grandiose.

Ronnie: Super grandiose, like, ‘I’m going to do this!’. I went through a bad manic phase in my early 20s and I did nothing but run on a treadmill all day and drink coffee and booze. Like I lost a ton of weight, and everybody is like, ‘oh you look good, you’re losing weight, blah blah blah’. Mania is so dangerous because of that. BEcause everybody is complimenting you and saying how fun and funny you are. And everybody wants to hang out with you. Until you get to that point where your personal space is like the quills on a porcupine. From, here to three feet away I could feel you looking at me, and I am going to fucking kill you. Stop looking at me. I mean that’s how, bad it get’s. You get really irritable. And then after that—

Paul: At the end of the mania?

Ronnie: At the end of the mania. When it starts to, wear down on you, it get’s to this, and this is me, it’s not the same for everybody, I have long cycles, that are about six months. So, when I get into this, which hasn’t been for a really long time—

Paul: Do you get into them when you’re on your medication for your bipolar or when you’re off your medication?

Ronnie: When I’m doing something wrong. This uh, the, the worst incident was I was taking over-the-counter diet pills—

Paul: That’s bad for a manic depressive.

Ronnie: Totally ruined everything, completely ruined everything. I ended up having to, um, give up my career, and beg for change in a parking lot to get something to eat. I went from working for the vice president of marketing of Albertsons Corporation to begging for change in a parking lot.

Paul: So you went from working at Albertsons to pushing a shopping cart so really you stayed within the same industry.

Ronnie: Yeah—

Paul: I’m gonna call that a lateral move, Ronnie.

Ronnie: It really sucked though because I had to start my whole life over. I was having like anxiety attacks. I couldn’t be alone at all.

Paul: And this is because of the diet pills.

Ronnie: Yeah, it was, it was what happened after that. I slid down really bad, um, and I, I just decided one day, this is never gonna get better if I don’t get the fuck up and out of this house and go look for a job. And I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know what gave me, I, I don’t know how.

Paul: Had you been fired from your Albertsons job?

Ronnie: Oh, oh I quit.

Paul: Oh, okay.

Ronnie: Because it was a good idea. Because it was a really good idea to quit at the time. I thought I’m gonna go do fun things, I’m gonna read tarot cards or whatever at a bar.

Paul: Oh my god. Yeah but it feels so good and so real in the moment because your adrenaline is pumping and all of those endorphins, and the dopamine, it’s all, it’s all, all the feeling that you want to feel the rest of the time. It’s just such an unhealthy dose.

Ronnie: Oh, I’m so fun and everybody loves me and I’m gonna drink and I’m never gonna sleep and I’m never gonna die. Wrong. So wrong. So, yeah, you don’t do things to fuck with meds. But you, you get to the point and this is what happened basically late 20s, early 30s, where you can recognize the feeling of, this is not a normal mood, this is a chemical thing and it’s derailing everything. And you get that feeling where, you know, you’re depressed and you feel like a little man sitting up in your own head, driving this big, unyielding, body that is fighting against you the whole time. And you know in your head that what you’re saying makes no sense. Like the language of depression is in absolutes; always, never, forever. Like these are things, when you hear them coming out of your laugh, you have to know this is not you talking, this is depression talking. And so, you recognize that and you do something about it, you do something that is completely out of the norm for yourself. You get up, get out of the house. Go for a walk. It’s uphill at first, but once you do it, you’re breaking that cycle because depression wants nothing more than to feed itself. To wallow in it’s own filth, just sitting there crouched in the back of your mind trying to make everything as shitty as it can be. And you have to fight that.

Paul: ‘Cause it’s battlefield is your mind, and so, trying to compete with depression by going into your mind, you’re fucked, it has the homefield advantage. You cannot win. You cannot win. YOu have to get up and get out of yourself and connect with other human beings. That’s that’s where, that’s where safety is but it feels like jumping into an ice cold fucking bath when you’re depressed. It is so counter intuitive to what you’re feeling. And that’s why I think so many people spiral is that they just, they want to do what feels comfortable to get out of it, and, and, that’s just not reality. That’s just not reality.

Ronnie: Right. And that’s, you have to be able to observe though.

Paul: Yeah.

Ronie: I mean you have to be able to be an observer of yourself. And, um, I mean that’s something I had to learn. Because you don’t, you don’t know. To you it’s real—

Paul: So real.

Ronnie: Really real. And then, it goes away and you realize that, that wasn’t real.

Paul: That was an episode.

Ronnie: And if you want to make your life any better, you have to say, ‘okay I remember what that feels like, I’ll know it next time. I’ll know that and I’ll recognize that’. And I, I get to that point, I don’t, I’m not happy all the time. Things happen. Um, sometimes I’ll miss my bedtime dose because I’ll be out late, and I’ll know I have to get up in the morning, and I don’t want to take them too close together, so I’ll miss my bedtime dose, or I’ll just fall asleep, or I’ll forget. It happens sometimes, and a few days later, I’ll start feeling really shitting, and I have a really good friend, my boss, he is my best friend, and I’ll talk to him, and I’ll just be taking to him, and I’ll just go, ‘oh, I’m depressed right now, this is me, I’m depressed’. I just need to keep an eye on that for a couple of days, it’ll go away. And if it doesn’t go away, then I’ll talk to my doctor and make sure everything, you know, I can get a level check, my blood level. And make sure it’s up at therapeutic where it needs to be, but I never, I don’t try to do things myself—

Paul: What level is it in your blood the level of it you check, the drug?

Ronnie: Yeah. You, when you take lithium, this is why you have to stay on it steadily, children, you have to stay on it steadily because you have to calibrate it to a level in your bloodstream where it’s a therapeutic level. If you just take it intermittently, you’re never gonna reach that level and it’s not gonna do you any good. YOu know, you’re just fooling yourself. And you have to monitor that, so, and I do. And I’m always good.

Paul: Uh, Ronnie, I want to thank you for coming in, and sharing you story with the listeners and with me and. Your, you seem like you’re in a good, you’re in a good place and you don’t have unrealistic expectations about, um, living with depression. And I think that’s another thing that’s good, is having realistic expectations of what life is with, with uh, with something like that. It’s something that needs to be managed the rest of our lives. And um, you can fight that and say, ‘you know, I want to, I don’t want to be the type of person that takes pills’, okay well good luck to you if, that’s the only thing that’s gonna help you, good luck, trying to fix it on your own and rationalize your way out of depression ‘cause, I don’t, I’ve tried every other thing other than being on meds, and nothing else, nothing else works.

Ronnie: It makes me crazy when I hear people say, ‘well, I’m not creative when I’m on medication’, well the you’re not creative. Face it. Like you’re still you, with or without it. Don’t, kid yourself.

Paul: Yeah, people think, it’s cheating. And that’s like, and I’ve said this before on the show, sorry if I’m repeating myself, but that’s like a diabetic thinking they’re cheating by taking insulin. It doesn’t bring you a sense of euphoria. Meds don’t, they just make you feel, not like killing yourself. Not like being, in a, something that, is, socially unacceptable, like being that manic person that always wants to read tarot cards in the bar for a living. You know? That’s, that’s not a way, a way to function.

Ronnie: I was paid in margaritas you know?

Paul: Were you really? My god. Uh, you are a walking miracle, Ronnie Schiller. How, if people want to get a, a hold of you, or know more about you, is there something you would like to plug? They can go to amazon and download, one or more of your books. And you last name is spelled S-C-H-I-L-L-E-R, first name is spelled R-O-N-N-I-E. And um, anything you want to say?

Ronnie: Um, no, not really. You know? Don’t be afraid. Be yourself. And don’t be afraid to get help, there is nothing wrong with you to get help. You can walk waist deep in mud, or you can get up in the dry ground. It’s not that big a deal, you just do it.

Paul: Yeah. And if anybody I’ve had on the podcast is proof that you can overcome shit, by just being willing, to get help, and talk about it, and not keep all that shit buried inside—look you can keep that shit buried inside and, and slap children and resent them. Or you can fucking talk to somebody about it, and see a psychiatrist and get together with a jackass and laugh about it. So if you’re out there, no that you’re not alone. Thanks Ronnie.

Ronnie: Thank you.

Many thanks to Ronnie Schiller for, a great, a great conversation. And as soon as we were done with our conversation I was walking her to her car, and she expressed a concern that she had, that she was coming across as, um, not in a good place in her life right now. Like she was, like she came across too negative. And I assured her that she didn’t. She really, boy, such helpful, practical advice. From her, on how to deal with, with how to deal with bipolar and I cannot thank her enough for coming in, coming in and talking about that. Um, couple of things before I go out with an email from a listener. A few different ways to support the show if you feel so inclined. You can support us financially by going to the website, that’s, going to the website and making a donation through PayPal. We have a little link there. You can also buy your stuff, when you buy something at Amazon, if you go through the search link on our homepage, Amazon gives us a couple nickels and it doesn’t cost you anything. And the third way you can support the show is, and it doesn’t cost you a dime, is you can go to iTunes and give us a good rating. It’s something nice that, don’t write it if you don’t feel it, if you don’t believe it. I don’t want you to, to bullshit people. And there are a few, you have written stuff that, that they didn’t like, but overwhelmingly, the reviews have been really really nice. And um, I, I appreciate that. I know it probably sounds, trite, or shallow but on days when I’m, kind of feeling like I’m not enough, sometimes I’ll go and read the things people say there and it always kinda, picks my spirit up. And then I go slap a child.

I am going to, read a letter that I got from a listener named Becca, and I don’t know why I need to qualify everything that I do on this show, I suppose it’s because I feel like there are people out there judging me, when in reality it’s really just the negative voice that I have in my head. But, I think the reason why, this email from Becca struck me is it, it just felt like a really, typical kind of, experience that, an American in today’s economy may be kind of struggling with. Especially with a young graduate and, and then there’s also—Jesus Paul, just shut the fuck up and read it. Alright, she writes, “Hi Paul, I already took your surveys, but I wanted to share a new share issue I have. Recently I moved to LA. I work for Home Depot and they transfered me. I thought I would be working in the garden department as usual, my shifts were always like six to three or eight to five, but my new store wanted me to work inventory which is four AM to eight AM. I actually had that job once before, and I don’t mind it. I’m a quiet, nerdy, detail-oriented person and inventory functions are more up my alley than customer service. But before I lived in a smallish New England town and could walk to work. The area where I’m staying isn’t great. The area where I wait for the bus, these hookers start bugging me. At first they were really flirting with me, all ‘a woman can please a woman more than a man can’, and ragging on me. But I’ve been polite with them and joked with them a little. And now we get along okay. Their pimp tried to get my number on Friday. They invited me to go to a rave with them once and cars slow down when they see me standing at the bus stop. Apparently my Home Depot work outfit, of Walmart jeans and t-shirts is very provocative. And potential John’s lear at me. Anyway, the hookers think I’m good for business now. They started calling me Megan and said, that could be my work name. I was horrified when they called me that because it’s actually my middle name. I have this paranoia that they know things about me. Maybe even things that I don’t know. I’m afraid that they have this hooker sixth sense and know that I’m destined to end up in the street prostituting myself with them. My sane mind, the part that tells me to file my income taxes on time, and eat regularly knows this isn’t true, but my emotional mind is freaking out. The situation is a real source of shame for me. I have a degree from a big name university and I feel like I should have a better job, a creative job by now. People I went to highschool with are all successful and work in finance or are at Harvard Medical School or write for sitcoms. Even the stay-at-home moms are excellent stay-at-home moms with impressive degrees and bright futures when they rejoin the workforce. I’m 29, single, and I feel like a complete loser. Staying in a sketchy part of town and getting harassed by, by eventually, kind of making friends with, street prostitutes, epitomizes my negative feelings about myself. The stupidest thing, the worst part of my shame, is that I don’t want anyone at work to find out. I just transfer here and I want to impress these people even if it is just a stupid retail gig. I mean, why do I care so much what people think of me? I could try and find someone to crash with. Someone who lives in a safer part of town. I could apply at the Homer Fund which is a charity funded by the company and it’s associates that grants money to Home Depot associates in need, but I can’t bring myself to do it. My family was emotionally abusive and very alcoholic, and I have trouble making myself vulnerable to anyone. Maybe on Monday I’ll talk to the manager on duty about the Home Fund. I wish I know how to get over my pride. It’s so counter-productive. And it stands in the way of me making progress and getting well. Thanks for reading this, Becca.” Oh Becca, I am rooting for ya. I’m so rooting for ya. And uh, I think that’s just something, in, something in people in their 20s, you know? Late 20s especially, early 30s really feel like they’re, like they should be someplace else in their life and that’s just a part of life. It certainly was a part of my life. I always felt like I was three steps behind the universe. And, it sounds to me like you’re not. It sounds to me like you’re starting to, get into, your feelings and emotionally what's going on with you, and to me that’s kinda the beginning of where life begins. Is, bringing that wall down and feeling the things that, that we’ve been running from our whole lives. And that’s often more important I think, than where we work or how much money we’re making or whether or not we’re prostitutes. So what I’m saying is Becca, put on some high heels and work that shit. What if I ended seriously on that note? Thank you for your email Becca. And thank you guys for listening. I know this was kinda a long, a long episode—god stop apologizing. This was not too long of an episode. This was a great episode from start to finish, and I’m gonna say that to myself until I go to bed. I need this show more than you people do. Thank you so much for listening. If you’re out there and you’re stuck, do not give up hope. You are not alone.

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