Melanie R (DID aka Multiple Personality Disorder)

Melanie R (DID aka Multiple Personality Disorder)

22 year-old Melanie R. shares about living with D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder), being bullied, having a perpetrator who is female, integrating her “alters” and Sensory Integration Disorder.

 

Melanie can be reached at hypermelanie@aim.com

Her personal blog is at loserchildhotpants.tumblr.com.

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Episode notes:

Melanie can be reached at hypermelanie@aim.com

Her personal blog is at loserchildhotpants.tumblr.com.

Episode Transcript:

04/22/16

Melanie R (DID aka. Multiple Personality Disorder)

Transcribed by: Madeline

Date transcribed: 05/04/16-05/20/16

 

Paul: Welcome to episode to 274 with my guest Melanie R, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, which used to be known as Multiple Personality Disorder. I’m Paul Gilmartin, this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling, I’m not a therapist, it’s not a doctor’s office – it’s more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. Uh, @mentalpod is also the Twitter handle you can follow me at, and regarding our website, go there, you can browse the forum, you can read blogs and guest blogs, you can fill out a survey, maybe we’ll read it out on the show, you can go there and support the show financially, all kinds of things.

 

Before, um, I get to the, uh – the interview with uh, Melanie, I want to read something that she sent me after we recorded, um, she said, “I didn’t really get the chance to go into the different branches dissociative disorders go off into but there are two clusters to DID and while I technically fall into both of them, I majorly fall into the first cluster, which is Possession Form - Possession Form meaning the identities are overt and it can appear as if the person is possessed by another spirit or entity. My alters are so vastly different from me – they present with different affects, interests, body languages, etc. so it appears as if another person is operating my body. Cluster 2 is Dissociative Amnesia, which I technically fall into also. That regards people who have huge gaps in their memories, find things they’ve bought but don’t recall buying, finding evidence of activities they would never participate in or otherwise having bouts of forgetfulness that can’t be attributed to substance abuse or neurological/physical illnesses. Dissociative disorders are vastly different between the people that have them. My experience is just one of millions and my experiences might be totally unlike anothers and probably only a few people with DID will share a similar experience with me. It’s very – it’s a very individualized illness, so specific to the environment the disorder developed in and what purpose the alters were serving. Uh, the second cluster usually includes more covert changes in identity – a lot more subtle, harder to pin down and harder to treat, typically. Possession Form is easier to treat only in that the symptoms are so apparent that they can’t be mistaken for anything else. Possession Form DID has a long history of being treated unsuccessfully with religion, cultural or spiritual ceremonies, exorcisms, and stuff like that.”

 

Uh, okay. Thank you for that, Melanie and I just wanted to read a couple of Struggle in a Sentence surveys. This was filled out by H-Vac Man, who writes about his depression, “Depression is like when I have to sneeze, I feel that tickle start to build in the back of my face and as it nears crescendo I have to stop what I’m doing until I get that sweet release – except instead of sneezing, I feel like I’m always on the verge of sobbing.” About his anxiety, “Anxiety is like the schoolyard bully is looking for me and could be around any corner. I’m sure he forgot about me decades ago, why can’t I shake this feeling?” Thank you for that. Uh, Jamie Jonestown, uh, who is a transmale writes about, uh, his anxiety, “I had one job, and it was to do all the jobs.” [Laughs.] That’s a great one, thank you for that. And, uh, Lilac who is agender writes about, uh, living with an abuser, “I live with the most abusive, selfish, stupid asshole of a subhuman that ever existed. I live alone.”

 

[SHOW INTRO]

 

Paul: I’m here with Melanie R, uh, who is a listener and, um, you have Dissociative Identity Disorder. One of the things I strive to do on the podcast is keep, um, a variety to the stories and try to, um, shine a light on things that don’t get lights shone on them? Done shined? I don’t know. I need to go back to school. But, um, I know a little bit about your story, uh, where do we even - you’re an abuse survivor and that is responsible for, um -

 

Melanie: The DID, yeah.

 

Paul: The DID.

 

Melanie: As it progresses - it starts as an adjustment disorder, which morphs into Post-Traumatic Stress, and if Post-Traumatic Stress isn’t, you know, um -

 

Paul: Alleviated?

 

Melanie: Yeah, if that’s not, you know -

 

Paul: Dealt with?

 

Melanie: Treated - yeah, if it’s not treated at all, it becomes a Dissociative Disorder and then you have all the branches that you can come off from there, and so it just - it presented first as Post-Traumatic Stress and then - but I was very young when I was diagnosed, so, uh, you know, it’s - especially I wasn’t seeing a specialist or anyone, uh, so, she was like, “Oh, maybe she’s moody, maybe she’s eccentric,” and it was – it was only when I presented a totally overt different personality while in session that I was, uh – and I used the quote “losing time”.

 

Paul: Yeah, I hear that a lot about, uh, people who either dissociate - dissociate as part of another disorder or have full-on DID. Um, and for those that don’t know, it’s what used to be referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder and – which a lot of people think schizophrenia is, which is completely different.

 

Melanie: Yes, totally wrong. Schizophrenia is a brain disease, like Alzheimer’s or Bipolar – it’s like, totally not – yeah, it’s not – it’s in the DSM but it’s a brain disease, so yeah, totally different. Totally different.

 

Paul: So, what – and you’re currently married, you’re how old?

 

Melanie: 22.

 

Paul: 20 – oh my god, a young’un!

 

Melanie: Yes. [Laughs.]

 

Paul: You’re married and your husband is in the military and you live on a military base – what’s that like?

 

Melanie: Um, really quiet, which I appreciate, um…

 

Paul: I’d imagine a gazillion things trigger you.

 

Melanie: No, actually, I mean, um, my biggest triggers are, uh, really sensory-oriented, such as, things I smell, uh – things I see, like, there’s just –

 

Paul: You know, they say that the strongest, um – the most potent sense memory is smell.

 

Melanie: Yes, and I - there was one event where I had a really – it was a trigger I didn’t know I had, which is also terrifying about DID because there’s so many holes in my memory that there are things my body remembers that I don’t – uh, which also its – the relationship between my body and my mind is really very strange and very difficult to, uh, navigate. Uh –

 

Paul: Like the odd couple?

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Yes, like the - exactly. Um, yeah. There was one event, though, that my husband did the grocery shopping instead of me, and he got a different softener than I usually get and he was being sweet, he did, you know, the sheets and he got everything in and we, um, have a duvet, which I don’t know why we did that because duvets are so frustrating but we whipped it out and I got hit with the wave of the scent and I was out of the house on the front lawn, like, shaking within like, 20 seconds – I have never moved so fast and I have – I have no idea what memory it’s connected to, but –

 

Paul: Wow. Really?

 

Melanie: No idea. But I know that smell and it was like, “I need to get out of here to save my life, I need to get out right now.” And I ran out of the house right onto the front lawn.

 

Paul: And were you able to express to him what was going on?

 

Melanie: He knows. He really – he handles me really well, um - he was kind of built for the military – he’s like, really good under stress and I’m a pretty high maintenance person emotionally so, uh, yeah, I mean, when he saw me freak out, and he knows the levels of my panic attacks, um – when he saw that, he came out, he helped me come down from it, and it was like, 8pm and he went out and got a different softener and rewashed the sheets and –

 

Paul: Aww.

 

Melanie: Yeah, so that I could actually fall asleep, but, uh, yeah, um, there are some – you know, I’ll get flooding occasionally and flooding is –

 

Paul: What’s that?

 

Melanie: Flooding is when, um – I’ll get, like, feral waves of memories that’ll just – it can be caused by a trigger like that, or um, I'm currently in EMDR therapy and that can – that can cause some flooding.

 

Paul: And is that something that EMR-EMDR, if done correctly, is not supposed to do or is that something that EMDR is going to bring up regardless of whether you want it to come up or not?

 

Melanie: It sounds sort of like it’s going to come up no matter what. When I sat down with this woman – and I’m so sad because she’s moving and she’s been great to me, so now I have to find a different psychologist but um, - and she specializes in dissociative disorders and EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral, which is – that’s probably my favorites – so, she warned me ahead of time, and she said, “You know, it’s really effective for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but if you have a dissociative disorder it can be kind of dangerous,” and we talked about the potential – you know, um, threats of, you know, if a memory comes up and, uh – because it’s almost – it’s almost like entering hypnosis and anything can come up and so if you’re triggered into – like, if I were to trigger into one of my alters, she would be able to get me back, hopefully, in touch with reality but, um, yeah, that was a lot – we talked about that a lot before starting the EMDR therapy.

 

Paul: How many, uh, alters do you have that you’re aware of?

 

Melanie: I’m partially integrated, so 2 of my alters are integrated and 2 are not – I’ve had 4 alters all-in-all. I have a friend who is DID and she has 40 alters that she has –

 

Paul: What?

 

Melanie: 40. I – yeah, and she’s not getting professional help.

 

Paul: That’s just cost-prohibitive.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] It is!

 

Paul: That’s a lot of grocery shopping!

 

Melanie: I agree. No, I agree. [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Um, so tell our listeners what you mean when you say “partially”, uh…

 

Melanie: Partially integrated.

 

Paul: Integrated.

 

Melanie: Uh, so, alters serve a purpose. Um, you know, I used to be really, really sad that I had DID – that’s not to say that I’m not because I think I would, like, give anything to have a neurotyp-typical brain – I think I’d give just about anything – um, but I was complaining to my sister I think it was, once, and just saying, you know, how miserable I am that my brain is the way it is and, uh, she assured me, she’s like, “No, your brain is doing something spectacular, it’s – it’s making – it’s like, helping you survive in a really spectacular way and it’s – it has created identities for you that can survive what you couldn't,” and that’s the whole idea of alters is that they do what I can’t do – um, so when I was very young, um, I developed my first alter I think at 7 or 8? Um, I was ritually abused from the time that I was about 6 until I was 12 and that’s only because my abuser moved, so I don’t – you know, I have no idea how long it would have gone on and I was taking it to the grave, I was never going to come forward.

 

Paul: Um, are you comfortable saying whether it was a relative or non-relative?

 

Melanie: It was someone, uh, not much older than me, uh, but – so, within my school, and a family friend, kind of like, they had a pretty, uh, unhappy home and my mother, as she likes to say, likes to “take in strays” and that was one of the strays that she liked to take in, so, um –

 

Paul: So, this person lived with you?

 

Melanie: A little bit, yeah, like, a bunch of my friends, like, partially lived with me. They would all spend most of their days at my house because my house the safe – they could smoke pot, they could drink and um, I never – I had never partaken because I never wanted to be any more detached from reality than I already was!

 

Paul: [Laughs.]

 

Melanie: They’d be like, “You wanna hit this joint?” I’m like, “No!” [Laughs.] “Not even a little!”

 

Paul: “Can I smoke an anti-joint?”

 

Melanie: Yes! “Can anybody, like, tether me down? That is not what I want to be doing, no.” So, um, uh, I think it’s important that I state that my abuser was a cisgender female, um, and that’s, uh – it’s important because I get, um –

 

Paul: And for those, uh, people who don’t know what cisgender means, it means that they present their gender, uh, similarly to the sex that they were assigned at birth.

 

Melanie: Yes. Um, so, I – what was I saying?

 

Paul: You think it’s important to…

 

Melanie: Yeah, I think it’s important to address that just because I get, um, negated a lot. A lot of people negate, um, the sexual abuse because there wasn’t a penis involved? Um, and that’s not entirely true, I had a – um, 2 events of date rape with a boyfriend that was also really traumatic but I think given those 2 events, uh, I no – I notice no difference in the intensity and how scary it was.

 

Paul: It’s something that greatly upsets me, when - when people act as if predators can’t be female.

 

Melanie: Yeah, yeah. And um, my, uh, abuser, uh, who I, um – this will probably come up, I mean – but, um, we eventually had to find my abuser, um, my mother was in charge of that search, I was all hands off, like, I couldn’t be part of that but um, we found out that they were in school studying to be a child psychologist –

 

Paul: Oh man.

 

Melanie: - which is a really, really mortifying - and then about 3 years later, uh, was – spent 3 months in prison for attempted murder - um, and their victim, uh, was a middle-aged woman, stabbed over 30 times, really violent. And her weapon of choice was always a knife which was – it was as terrifying as it was validating, um, and you know, my mother’s –

 

Paul: What do you mean when you say, “her” – because there were other instances where she used a knife or did she use a knife with you?

 

Melanie: Yes – oh, she used a knife with me, yeah. It wasn’t just sexual abuse, it was very violent. I have a lot of scars. I have a lot of scars.

 

Paul: Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

 

Melanie: Thank you. Um, and that actually started, um, my excoriation, which is the – it’s the skin picking stuff –

 

Paul: Mmhmm. Is that the same thing as, uh, dermatillomania?

 

Melanie: Same thing. Uh, yeah, that started it because I would – there would be scars all over my chest and I would just – and you know, they’d scab and then I would pick at the scabs and I’d make it worse and so I have all of these really old scars, um, and the night – I remember the night that I came forward to my parents, which was –

 

Paul: You were 16. Right?

 

Melanie: Yes. I was 16. That was the night that I turned 16 – it was my birthday night. [Laughs.] Happy birthday to me.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: Um, yeah – before – like, you know, my parents didn’t know what to do – I mean, my family is really horrible at handling these things – I don’t think any family is particularly good at handling news like that – um, but mine definitely did not come together as a unit! [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Did they say, “So, what, do you want us to get another cake?”

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Oh god, no. No, they knew about the DID – that they had to be informed of right away once I was diagnosed. I remember how scared my therapist was because, um, I had been seeing her because I was – I had weird behaviours, just weird behaviours.

 

Paul: So, your parents were just puzzled as to why all this was happening to you!

 

Melanie: What’s amazing, and I found this with so many other people that I’ve met who’ve been abused and their family just didn’t realize that it was happening and happening so frequently – you will just never see what you’re not looking for, and –

 

Paul: That’s a great way of putting that.

 

Melanie: Yeah. And it’s – it’s – I also have told people - it’s really hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame. Really difficult to see what’s around you when you’re inside of it and um, I mean, my husband, when I – um, when we were first becoming friends, we were in high school and he wore t-shirts every day and he’d been cutting and no one in his family knew – there are scars – bloody scars all up his arms and no one noticed. No one said a thing -

 

Paul: That’s incredible.

 

Melanie: - because you just don’t see what you’re not looking for. Nobody noticed. I was the only one to notice because I’m constantly looking for signs.

 

Paul: How much are – how much older was your abuser than you, if you’re comfortable sharing.

 

Melanie: Um, just like, 3-4 years older. Um, she, uh, was pretty classically sociopathic. Um, I was forced to watch a lot of animals be tortured, um –

 

Paul: That she did?

 

Melanie: Yeah, yeah. She was very – she was a very scary, scary person. I’ve thought about – you know, I’ve considered, like, maybe she’s being abused, because it’s possible she never – her family was awful, I mean, it’s totally possible but I – she was always at my h-house, I just don’t know when it would have happened.

 

Paul: Was somebody inviting her there, was - did she have a hold over you where you thought – you thought you were friends?

 

Melanie: A hold over me, yeah. We were – we were, yeah. We had this, um, a very s-strange friendship where it was like, because she had been there for so long, I just accepted that she was –

 

Paul: It was your normal and it was something you did and because you were checked out when it was happening –

 

Melanie: Oh yeah.

 

Paul: - the weight of it had never probably occurred to you – this was just a part of – I mean, is that correct to say that?

 

Melanie: Yeah, there was also really, um, really strong denial about how serious things were –

 

Paul: By you?

 

Melanie: Oh yeah. Yeah. Um, I would – like, I would find – one of my alters – and this happens with a lot of people who have DID, um – typically you’ll have at least one alter that takes on the persona of your abuser because it’s the one person that can, you know, equal that power – that can face that abuser head on, so – and that’s one – that alter will not integrate with me – she hates me. She hates me and she does not want to be a part of me.

 

Paul: What does she tell you?

 

Melanie: Well, she used to leave me really horrifying notes in like, my school notebooks and stuff – I would find, like, you know – um, really explicit, um, death threats and very obviously me having written it but not my handwriting – all my alters have different handwriting, different affects, like really overtly different from me.

 

Paul: And was it addressed to Melanie, or you just knew it was –

 

Melanie: Oh, no it was just in my notebook – and she used to – she did a lot of corner writing – she would write in the corners of paper.

 

Paul: What do you think that was about?

 

Melanie: No idea. No idea. But I would just – I would rip them out and throw it away and that was it. I just – [Laughs.] – I was just like, “Nuh uh.” [Laughs.]

 

Paul: And what are some of the things that, uh, the alter tells you?

 

Melanie: Um, a lot of – uh, you know, your basic mean talk. Um, that I’m worthless, that um, I’m unlovable, and that was something that my abuser pushed into me a lot – this idea that what they were showing me was love and – or it was the closest thing I would ever get to love and that’s why I should be grateful for it. Um, there was a lot of brainwashing involved. There was a lot.

 

Paul: What aspect of it could your abuser have been justifying as love?

 

Melanie: I think just the sexual element – uh, cause I mean, it was – I got it in my brain that it was like, this is an intimate act, but um, I mean, it started so young I have no idea how my brain was operating at the time.

 

Paul: How young?

 

Melanie: Uh, like 5 or 6 when it started.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: Yeah. And um, I think it was around 9 or 10 that I started physically fighting back and that’s when the violence really escalated – uh, and there was one really, really petrifying moment where, um, we got into this big fight and um, one of my alters is not, um, totally human. She has ram horns.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: Yeah, and um, she was developed when I was very young – when I was like, a little girl that was the first alter that I developed and she rammed heads with my abuser to, you know, try and push her off.

 

Paul: Figuratively or literally?

 

Melanie: Literally. I literally head bang and push all my weight to try to like, knock them down and looking back I have memories, um – and memories of me being able to see myself doing it, totally unattached from my body - being able to see myself doing it and not understanding why I was doing it. Um, but it was because that alter thought it had horns so it would ram.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: So, we got in this big fight and I was ramming and um, she pushed me back – I had this small hanging mirror in my room and the back of my head hit the mirror and it shattered and I fell down and I was like, you know, I had, like, Tweety Birds around my head – I was not about to get up and she crouched over me and she took one of the shards of glass and she carved her initials in my cleavage and she told me that she would really like to rip me open and put that on my heart and that was something she fantasized about - like, but literally opening my body up and it was – it was so petrifying that I – and I was present for that moment, for hearing that and it was the first time that I was like, “Oh, she might actually kill me.” Like, she might actually hurt me like she hurts animals and like, she might actually kill me.

 

Paul: So, help – help the listener understand – because I understand the power an abuser has and the brainwashing and the fucked up idea that this – I’m convinced this is love and they reduce your self-esteem to the point where you think you need that person – but help the listener understand more fully why you would still have contact with that person when this was – when this was going on – why you wouldn’t just go cling to your mom’s leg and say, “Please, keep that person away from me.”

 

Melanie: Well, there are a couple of reasons. So, um, uh, like you, dad was totally checked out. Totally checked out. Um, I would see him for like, 10 minutes when he came home from work at about 8pm – he would –

 

Paul: I hope to god you mean my dad and not me.

 

Melanie: Yeah, no, I mean your dad! [Laughs.] I mean your dad, not you! No, I would say you’re pretty checked in – you’re running a podcast about mental illness – you’re pretty checked in emotionally!

 

Paul: I can get pretty checked out though, but go ahead.

 

Melanie: Um, yeah, so he would come home, he would have a glass of wine, he’d get really ornery, and then he would descend into the basement and I would not see him for the rest of the evening – and when I was little, I would like, chase after – like, I would pour his wine when I saw his car coming up – I had no idea what he was drinking – it was just – but I would pour the wine glass just for those few moments of recognition – um, yeah, but he didn’t care, he was totally um, totally unattached and my mother is uh, like, borderline narcissistic codependent, which is just a hurricane of awfulness that was – it really did not teach me well, so I had um, you know, I’d admired her so much because she’s very self-sac– or she seemed self-sacrificing, um, and really she liked to martyr herself –

 

Paul: I was just going to say.

 

Melanie: Yeah, she loved mar – I – there was – I got so angry with her recently – we got into this big fight really recently, and I hung up on her and I looked at my husband – we were in the car and I was like, “You know what I’m going to get her, you know, next Hanukkah, next Christmas? I’m going to get her a big wooden cross so she can nail herself to - so she can just get – climb on up there every time she feels unappreciated and just” – oh, so frustrating. So, um –

 

Paul: So, there was no stability or security in your home.

 

Melanie: No stability. And my sister also has pretty, um, major depression and anxiety – not caused by any trauma, she’s just like, no serotonin production and it’s really difficult for her to, um, you know, stay at a good homeostasis.

 

Paul: Have you listened to the episode with Dr. Jonice Webb on emotional neglect?

 

Melanie: Yes, I have. My sister listened to it first and then she called me and she was like, “Please listen to this episode!

 

Paul: I was just going to suggest that you tell her to listen to it! That’s a mindblower. That episode – I’ve gotten so many e-mails from people who had lights go on and they were like, “Oh, yes!”

 

Melanie: There were things she said word-for-word that I heard in my household and that was so alarming – that was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s just like, a formula to this, this isn’t just like, a weird anomaly.” Um, but because my mother was, um, you know, so into self-sacrificing, uh, I couldn’t bring my – I didn’t want to be hated by her and say something selfish like, “I don’t want so-and-so to come over to the house anymore,” and there was no – I couldn’t get out the truth, and especially when you’re little, like, there’s just – you don’t have the words, you don’t really – I didn’t really understand what was happening to me until I feel like maybe I was 10 – that’s when I like, realized, like, “Oh, this is like, sexual and psychological, like, violent abuse and it’s really dangerous.” Um, the danger didn’t really occur to me until much later, and even then I – there was – I remember there was one really distinct night that we were all at the dinner table and we – there was just a lull –

 

Paul: Including your abuser?

 

Melanie: No, no, no. Just – it was my father, my mother and my sister and we were all at the table, and there was a lull and I thought, “I’m going to say it right now. I’m just going to get it out.” And I opened my mouth, no one noticed, nothing came out, and I shut it again. And that was it.

 

Paul: Yeah, in that blog piece – that guest blog piece you wrote for the website, you described it as, “It felt like there was a hot rock in my throat.”

 

Melanie: Yeah, and it sat there every time I tried to say it, I could feel it, like, right – right in my, you know, esophagus, like it wanted to come out but I really couldn’t get it out.

 

Paul: If you could go back and sit next to 10-year-old you at the dinner table, what would you do or say? Adult you?

 

Melanie: Uh, that’s interesting because someone asked me that – you know, I gave lectures about this to classes and um, someone asked me that, like if you could go back in time what would you say to yourself, and um, I said that, “Everything that you fear is going to happen, is going to happen. You’re right. Your family is going to fall apart, no one – like, the help is not going to come until much later, everything is going to get worse before it gets better, but it’s worth it.” Um, frankly, I don’t think that there was any way it was going to come out before it was ready to come out, and I think that’s also why I just – I believe that parents just need to be hypervigilant about this stuff – they need to look for the red flags –

 

Paul: And explain, um – I think I understand what you mean by it, but explain to the – the listener what you mean by, “It’s going to be worth it.”

 

Melanie: Gonna be worth it to come forward. The – so, the day that I came forward - I have an emetaphobia and that’s the fear of vomit or vomiting, and that developed young because when little kids have intense anxiety, it presents as a lot of tummy aches and things like that, and it – usually like, it – when you get older it goes away, it’ll become a stress headache or something, but as I got older it just became a more focused, phobic response to any upset stomach or seeing anything like that and I also had 2 pretty traumatic events with my abuser that involved vomiting, so, um, uh – what was I saying?

 

Paul: Uh, it gets better –

 

Melanie: The – uh, yeah.

 

Paul: It will be worth it, about coming forward, um…

 

Melanie: [Sighs.] Um, oh, right. The day that I came forward has to do with my emetaphobia, that’s what I was going to explain. So, um, I was – I lived in New York and I was – it was during the Swine Flu breakout, so I didn’t like going to school, I was, like, really freaked out all day – I was like, high, high anxiety – uh, and there was like – in the morning, some girl like, had thrown up in her hand trying to run out of the room and I was done – like, that – I was done, I was like, “I’m going to the front office, I’m going home!” So, uh…

 

Paul: And then they put that awful thing on it that makes it smell even worse. Do you know that – it’s like a sawdust that they would pour on vomit?

 

Melanie: No…

 

Paul: Maybe that’s super old school.

 

Melanie: I don’t know.

 

Paul: They did it at my Catholic grade school. It smelled like, uh – like wintergreen? It was awful. But go ahead.

 

Melanie: Oh yeah, no. I – that sounds terrible! [Laughs.] Uh, no, I don’t think I even stuck around long enough to see what happened after that! Um, yeah, so I went down to the main office, I was like, “Look, I want to go home,” and – maybe it’s just my school but I feel like it’s a lot of New York schools, they just really don’t give a shit, they’re just like, “Okay, you wanna go home, call someone to get you to go home.” I called my mother at work, she’s like, “Look, I can’t come get you, and your father is at work, he can’t come get you – we’re going to call, um,” what’ll – I have to – I’ll call her – it’s not going to matter – Robin. And Robin was my mother’s friend from – like, since they were in high school they’ve been friends, so – so, many decades and um, I’ve known Robin, she’s kind of like an aunt to me, so, um, my mother was like, “I’m going to call Robin and tell her to come pick you up at the school and she’ll come get you,” and that’s what happened – Robin came and she got me, and I was having a violent panic attack and my panic attacks for a while were so violent they were mistaken for physical seizures, so I had a bunch of tests done, um – lots of really uncomfortable tests, uh, and then they were like, “Yeah, your cholesterol is a little high, but otherwise - ” [Laughs.] “ - otherwise you’re in pretty good shape, so whatever is going on it’s psychological.” So, this like, Sigmund Freud looking guy just – who like, didn’t even like, look up from his Mac laptop at all, like, when I was in his office, just was like, “Take 5 milligrams of clonazepam a day and then as needed,” and that’s what I did – I took 5 milligrams – I was 15, I was taking 5 milligrams of clonazepam –

 

Paul: That’s a lot.

 

Melanie: It’s a lot. Clonazepam can be used as a roofie, and I was still having panic attacks while taking it on a daily basis. It was bad.

 

Paul: Oh my god.

 

Melanie: Yeah. Uh, so…

 

Paul: So, back to Robin.

 

Melanie: Yes. So, Robin gets me – I rush into the house, I take some Klonopin, I’m trying to come down from the panic, and she’s looking at me really weird, and she’s like, “You know, 15-year-old girls don’t just have panic attacks,” and I was like, “What are you talking about?” and she’s like, “They don’t just have – like, this isn’t normal – what happened?” and I said, “Nothing happened!” And she’s like, “Then what’s going on?” I said, “Nothing’s going on!”

 

Paul: And you knew that you – you were conscious that, “Oh, something is going on, I’m just hiding it.”

 

Melanie: Oh yeah, no. I – and so – and my abuser had moved at 12, so now it’s been about 4 years I’ve just kept silent. Um, and then she said – and these – for a lot of people these are the magic words – she just said, “Did somebody hurt you?” and I didn’t even say anything, I just immediately started sobbing, and like, ugly – ugly sobbing, like snot coming down your face and like, shaking and I kind of knew that I was caught in that moment because you can’t really brush that off and be like, “Nah!” Like – [Laughs.]

 

Paul: I was just kidding about the snot and the animal noises.

 

Melanie: It’s just – yeah! That fetal position meant nothing! So, she – she was – you know, she was very freaked out, and she’s like, “You know, I have to tell your parents,” and I was like, “Oh my god, don’t tell my parents,” I – the idea of them hearing it from someone else was worse than me having to tell them, and she said, “Fine, but you have to tell them tonight,” and at the moment it was horrible, but in retrospect it was very funny, that I’m – I’m sobbing, I’ve got tissues around me and I go, “Can I – [sobs] – at least wait ‘til – [sobs] – after my birthday?”

 

Paul: [Laughs.]

 

Melanie: She goes, “No.” [Laughs.] But her reasoning was very good, she just said, “You shouldn’t spend another birthday like this,” so it was – the night I turned 16 and um, my – and Robin called my mother at work and she’s like, “I found out what’s wrong with Melanie,” and she’s like, “Great, what’s wrong with Melanie?” She’s like, “I can’t tell you,” and she’s like, “You motherfucker, why can’t you tell me?” and got really angry and I heard her yelling in the kitchen on the phone but Robin didn’t – she kept her promise, she’s like, “No, I really can’t tell you but she’s going to tell you tonight,” and then my mother called my father at his office, she’s like, “Robin found out what’s wrong with Melanie,” and dad is like, “Great, what’s wrong with her?” and like, “I don’t know!” and they called my sister, who’s at work – not work, she’s in university and they’re like, “We found out what’s wrong with Melanie,” it’s like, “Great, what is it?” So, they’re all very frustrated and confused and that night, I sat on the couch with them and I couldn’t even say that I’d been molested – I couldn’t use the words, um, all I said was – it was something along the lines of, like, “Look, around the time that I was like, 5 or 6, so-and-so started pressuring me into doing things that I wasn’t comfortable with,” like, I’d just – I – I worded around it – I danced around the words, but it was really apparent what I was trying to say – um, and there were some things that came together for, um, my parents – I mean my father didn’t say a word. He just – he looked very strange through the whole thing, um, and I couldn’t, like, even decipher what his face meant – I didn’t know if he was angry or shocked or – I didn’t know what that expression meant, but uh, my mother – I mean, like, she cried a little bit but she wasn’t – she, like, thank goodness she didn’t like, put on theatrics, because that would have just really stressed me out – um, but one of the first things she said was, “Is that why you wore that black jacket every day?” and there was one black jacket I wore every single day no matter the season and she would lose her shit over that jacket because she’s really vain and she would just hate that I wore this bulky, ugly black jacket and during the summer she’d be like, [gritting teeth] “Take off the jacket,” and I’d be like, “Go away mom!” like, “I’m a moody teenager, you don’t get me,” like, it’s – so, I played it off like I’m just moody and you can’t do anything about it and it’s not like she would rip the jacket off me to get it done, um, and I said, like, “Yeah, I was hiding cuts and bruises, like, that’s exactly why I was wearing that jacket,” and she just nodded like that was something that was – it was like, just in that moment, like, she’s putting together pieces of all the past years and in that moment it was the black jacket she remembered. Uh, and I remember that night I – you know, they were like, “Alright, you’re going to stay home from school tomorrow, we’re going to stay home from work,” and I don’t remember the day after at all – I was totally dissociated for that entire day, um, but I remember –

 

Paul: Did you sleep well that night?

 

Melanie: I walked up the stairs to my bedroom and it felt like I’d been holding a sword and shield and I dropped them. Like – like a really – a heavy metal and I had dropped them while I was walking up the stairs and to this day, I have never had a better night’s sleep. I – it was the lightest I had ever felt and – and of course in my, like, 16-year-old brain, I’m like, “Oh, this means it’s over!” [Laughs.]

 

Paul: [Laughs.]

 

Melanie: “I’m just – I’m just going to stop dissociating now!” [Laughs.] “All my symptoms are going to go away – everything is going to be great, uh, because I said – I barely said the thing that needed to be said.” [Laughs.] Um, but it showed itself, you know, in a lot of ways physically – um, the first month after coming forward I lost 30 pounds, because I just wasn’t – because you stuff it down – a lot of people do anyway. Uh, and I would only eat, like, the weirdest things - because of my emetaphobia I could only eat, like, white bread – like, only like, really processed foods that I was comfortable – it was like, more chemical than anything else! Um, so yeah, I lost a lot of weight and, um, my therapist – yeah, I think my parents were pretty frustrated with my therapist, like, “Why weren’t you able to put this together?” – um, and she was too emotionally involved. She’d been seeing me since I was like, 8-years-old and she was definitely too emotionally involved.

 

Paul: How so?

 

Melanie: She – like, I have sensory integration disorder, it’s something I was born with, and her son also had that and she also – totally unethical – she also did marriage counseling for my parents and saw my sister, so she knew the whole family – [Laughs.] – she got the whole family.

 

Paul: And she did your wills.

 

Melanie: Yes, she also did that, yeah. She was a notary, um – [Laughs.]

 

Paul: What is – is sensory – what did you call it?

 

Melanie: Sensory integration disorder, um –

 

Paul: What’s that?

 

Melanie: Um, it’s fairly common – um, my mother had a really horrible pregnancy with me, and they had to do, at one point, exploratory surgery because they didn’t know what was wrong and um, her ovary had grown a cyst and collapsed on her colon and they were – they caught it, like, 4 hours before her colon burst and killed us both, it was a pretty –

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: Yeah, it was a pretty big deal – but to get there to – and they had to remove the ovary entirely, like, they were just like, “We can’t even save this, so say goodbye to the one ovary,” and they had to physically move me to the sides – they like, actually, like, picked me up a little in the uterus and like, moved me – um, not something you should do apparently! [Laughs.] So… it was when I was developing my senses and so, that disruption – that turbulence – um, uh, resulted in sensory integration disorder and really, that just means that some of my senses were hyposensitive and others were hypersensitive – um, it stunted a lot of my growth, I wasn’t walking or talking until I was 3 -

 

Paul: Hmm.

 

Melanie: Yeah, it delayed a lot of stuff, so…

 

Paul: What senses were, uh, hyper and which ones were hypo?

 

Melanie: Um, there – it’s a weird mix, like, I’m hyposensitive to pain, um, but hypersensitive to touch – my, uh, kinaesthetic sense, the sense of feeling things around you – hypersensitive, um, and I could usually, like – being familiar with people, I could sense who was, like - who was coming around the corner – I always knew who it was before I even heard them or anything – um, my hearing also, hypersensitive – um, but the thing about integration – sensory integration disorder is it fluctuates a lot, so, there were days where my touch was hyposensitive, and um, it would give my parents a heart attack because I’d come running down the driveway and I would slam into people to get hugs because it was the only way I could feel it, so I’d just throw my body onto, like, my dad’s leg as he was like, coming up the driveway. Yeah, and that took a lot of occupational therapy, uh, to work through that, and um, yeah, I asked my mother about this very recently, because in preparation, um, for this, I asked her a lot of questions that I had just never got around to, uh, and when she found out I had sensory integration disorder she became a child advocate, and when she found out I had DID, she did nothing.

 

Paul: What do you think that’s about?

 

Melanie: I asked her, and she didn’t really have an answer. Um, she thinks maybe it was one part denial, um, she also – you know, this is kind of her being an asshole again, like, she told me I have – as a child I had the tendency to perseverate, so she didn’t want to –

 

Paul: I forget, what does that word mean again?

 

Melanie: Like, focus too much – like make worse by how much you focus on it, so like, you know, I was one of those kids when I had a loose tooth, I’d just sit on the bathroom counter and wiggle it until it was out, like, I could not – like, I couldn’t rest, no one was sleeping that night – I would – no one is sleeping! [Laughs.] Um, that’s perseverating – that's – yeah. So, she told me I had the tendency to perseverate, so she didn’t want to – so like, my DID was me perseverating! [Laughs.]

 

Paul: You know, I also have an opinion – I think DID is so hard for the average person to wrap their head around, I think a lot of people write it off as, “This person is just being, uh, dramatic, they’re starved for attention, they, um, they,” – you know, on and on and on and on.

 

Melanie: Oh yeah. Yeah.

 

Paul: I think that’s – if you had asked me 20 years ago, um, I would have been very skeptical that that is something –

 

Melanie: Yeah.

 

Paul: It just – it’s so hard to wrap your head around.

 

Melanie: I’ve had people to my face that they don’t believe DID is real, uh, and I think there was one time that I respond – usually I just like, brush it out, it’s like, “Okay,” I mean, that’s – okay. That’s – I – I still have the diagnos- like, I still have it, and it has nothing to do with you, so I’m sure it’s very hard for you not believing in DID!

 

Paul: [Laughs.]

 

Melanie: I’m sure that’s really hard for you! Um, there was some guy who came up to me after I gave one of my lectures, like, “I don’t believe DID is real,” and I was like, “Well, I can not believe that gravity is real and we’re still standing here, motherfucker, so I don’t know what you want me to say to that,” so… [Laughs.] “It’s still happening, so, we’re going to have to deal with it!” Uh, yeah – my – my alters are so overt, it’s, um – it’s so difficult to brush it off as something else.

 

Paul: Well, what a perfect time to talk about them.

 

Melanie: Um, alright, so –

 

Paul: We’ve got the ram one –

 

Melanie: Yes.

 

Paul: We have the abusive one –

 

Melanie: Her name is Hide, the one with the ram horns –

 

Paul: Mmhmm. And how do you spell that?

 

Melanie: Hide.

 

Paul: Okay.

 

Melanie: Um, and for the longest time I thought she was a character I made up, because I was so young when I developed her that eventually she just became a part of my imagination. She eventually integrated, um, and – in therapy, but um –

 

Paul: And do the characters – do the alters come up with the names for themselves or do you come up with the names for them?

 

Melanie: It seems like they come up with them themselves, and this was very interesting because recently I was in very deep meditation, which I’ll do a lot, especially now that I’ve been doing EMDR, and when I’m in that state, if you speak directly to my alters, they might reply, and –

 

Paul: Even the ones that have been integrated?

 

Melanie: No, once they’re – once they’re integrated they don’t really – they’re just a part of the host’s personality, which is me, so – um, I was in a meditative state with, um, 3 of my friends, and uh, they want – they spoke – they just kind of asked if one of my alters were present and they were, and they both responded to them and they asked – my friends, like, asked a bunch of questions because there’s one alter that I never knew about, um, this fourth one who was the last one to develop and uh, her name is Lily, and –

 

Paul: I fucking hate her.

 

Melanie: [Laughs] Well, she’s very nice – she’s very nice.

 

Paul: That’s why I don’t like her – I think she’s phony.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Um, yeah, well my other alter who only – she only goes by Mel – will only respond to Mel and that’s the really scary one –

 

Paul: That’s the abusive one?

 

Melanie: Yeah, um, but she’s also the “get shit done” one, like, she will – um, you know, I – I’m pretty sure I owe her my life for multiple occasions – um, and you know, there’s really – like, there’s really –

 

Paul: How – can you be more specific why you owe her your life?

 

Melanie: Uh, she would do things that I would be too scared to do, so where – situations where I would freeze up, um, she would take charge and she would take charge of my body and she’d be the one to push back, and she’d make the fight last longer, and occasionally she’d win, and that was something I – I couldn’t do, um, so – I don’t – you know, there was, um, there was one time where I’d – you know, there was a while where I could – I can’t – you can’t really, like, call on your alters, they just sort of show up, um, but you can kind of give into dissociating, and I was in a violent fight with my abuser and we were on my bedroom floor and she was choking me on both sides of my neck so I was losing oxygen really quickly, and I could feel – I can feel my alters – it’s like – I don’t want to say “in” me – like, they’re – ah, it’s so impossible to explain. I can feel them, though – I can feel their presence and I could feel Mel, like, just – like, like, under the surface of my skin, like, ready to fight and I thought to myself how tired I was, and nothing – I remember nothing else, so – and then I didn’t – uh, come to until like, 2 weeks later.

 

Paul: So, then Mel had been there for those 2 weeks or what…?

 

Melanie: Mmhmm. Yeah. And she would run my body.

 

Paul: And how do you know when – which alter has taken over because you – the you that has the memory, the alters don’t really have memories, right?

 

Melanie: Nope, they have memories.

 

Paul: But only when that alter is active and –

 

Melanie: Yes.

 

Paul: And so, the you – the core you, can never have any memory of what the alter experienced? Or no?

 

Melanie: I can –

 

Paul: They can both exist at the same time.

 

Melanie: Yes. In integration therapy, part of that is retrieving memories from your alters.

 

Paul: I see. So, that’s how you remembered Hide ramming heads with her.

 

Melanie: Yes, that was – that was a really weird one to come – because I remember in therapy saying, “I thought I made her up, like, I thought she was a fictional,” – because I write and I love writing, and I was like, “I just thought she was a fictional character I made up,” and no, she was an alter that existed for a very long time and um, yeah, I mean, but it could have – you know, that’s also – with DID –

 

Paul: Were you skeptical when your psychologist or your therapist was telling you these things? Did it seem, um – or did it – or was it like, “Oh, this all falls into place now?”

 

Melanie: I mean, the only times that I was ever skeptical of my psychologist was times when she was like, “You know it’s possible to be fully integrated?” [Laughs.] I’m like, “Sure. Sure. Some day I’m going to be a totally functional person.”

 

Paul: Who doesn’t lose track of time.

 

Melanie: Who doesn’t have, like, blocks of time gone. Um, yeah, um, but there were – there were a lot of things that didn’t – there were times where I was like, “This is really hokey – do we really have to do this?” like – but a lot of the time it, uh, worked or produced something that it was supposed to produce, um, so, there was one, um –

 

Paul: Was there anything more to the – when you were, um, deep into, uh – and your friends were talking to you?

 

Melanie: It’s, uh – they recorded it – they recorded the audio.

 

Paul: And does the voice of your alter sound different than your voice?

 

Melanie: So different, it’s really alarming.

 

Paul: Can you do a sort of impression of what it sounds like? Or is that too much to ask?

 

Melanie: No, I could – I mean, like, - [In a higher voice.] - Lily sounds sort of floaty and sweet and she calls everybody by their full name, so, if you’re Joe, when I call you Joe, Lily calls you Joseph and if your name is Chris, she calls you Christopher and she – [In her own voice.] - if a leotard could become a person, that’s what Lily is. [Laughs.] So, um, and Mel, I don’t know if I can mimic her voice, it’s just a lot, like, lower and gruffer. Her laugh is very different from mine, um, and just the words that she uses are like - like, they’re – because she’s, like, 12, so she uses the words that I was using when I was 12, because she’s, like, perpetually 12 – so, she was like, uh, I think she called something “boss” – [Laughs.] – like, when I heard the audio, I was like, “Oh, that’s embarrassing,” I was – I’m embarrassed for my former self.

 

Paul: And do some alters evolve and mature, or are they all kind of stuck at the emotional frame that they were born?

 

Melanie: Well, this is – and this is another really confusing part of DID is that your alters can take on any age, it’s not really dependent on when they developed – so, Hide doesn't have an age but she was an adult. She was an adult. I don’t know how old she was, but she was definitely – she had a grown body. Um, Lily is 19, but she developed when I was 16, uh, and Mel is 12 and it’s, uh, maybe –

 

Paul: Oh, that’s interesting that – that, um, alters can develop after the trauma ends.

 

Melanie: Mmhmm.

 

Paul: I didn’t know that.

 

Melanie: There were – I think it had to do with moving – um, she developed because I moved out of state and it was away from everybody I’d ever known and loved and a lot of traumatic stuff happened right before I left. Coming forward is really refreshing and every person you tell, it’s like – it’s like, the weight gets lighter because someone else just took a fraction of the weight, and um, I had a friend, David, who was so close to me he was being adopted into the family, that’s how – like, we were legally adopting him, and his parents were, like, you know – one of them was in prison and the other was in Columbia and it was like – he – and they were just kind of like, willing to hand him over – they were like, “Yeah, sure, take him!” Um, when I told him, he decided he didn’t believe me, and he didn’t tell me that, uh, but he basically went searching for my abuser, found them, and gave them a call and said, “Hey, Melanie has come forward about all this stuff. Is it true?”

 

Paul: Now, why do you say ‘them’, when you say, “Found them”?

 

Melanie: Oh, just –

 

Paul: Instead of saying ‘her’?

 

Melanie: Um, I go back and forth with that a lot. Like, I’ve – um, in an effort to be less problematic as a person I’ve, um, started using gender neutral terms until I know somebody’s gender for sure, so a lot of them time I’ll just switch between ‘they’ and ‘she’, so…

 

Paul: I see. Okay.

 

Melanie: So, it doesn’t – it doesn’t mean anything but um, uh, that’s when we found out that she was in school, um, you know -

 

Paul: To be a child – a child psychologist.

 

Melanie: Yeah, a child psychologist – so scary – um, but you know, surprise, surprise, she denied my claims – [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Mmhmm.

 

Melanie: And um, it was really – it was really alarming after that because it was – there was one day in school where, um, someone came – came up to me in my Geometry class and said – so I didn’t know – said, “I heard that so-and-so’s father raped you. Is that true?” And they were close – it was just close enough that I was like, “Someone is playing telephone with my secrets,” and that was terrifying and it was David. Um, when I moved and when I was in the process of moving –

 

Paul: And was he living with your family at that point?

 

Melanie: He wasn’t living with us yet, no.

 

Paul: Okay.

 

Melanie: I mean, like, when I say basically living with us, like, he was like, in the house all the time –

 

Paul: I see.

 

Melanie: So, he could leave at 3am, like, you just never knew whether he was in or out of the house and every – like, everyone had a key, like all my friends had keys to the house – like, they would be there when I wasn’t there, um, it was – it was pretty dysfunctional and my mother encouraged this a lot and no boundaries with my mother – a lot of emotional incest with my mother and I’ve recently been able to put my foot down and be like, “Boundaries!” and she has not responded well, so – [Laughs.] – I mean…

 

Paul: A narcissistic parent didn’t respond well to your asking for needs?

 

Melanie: So shocking!

 

Paul: Um, you were just finishing up a thought about, uh, David – so, this thing in high school, you –

 

Melanie: Yeah, so, this, um - this ended up on Facebook –

 

Paul: Oh!

 

Melanie: And I came home from school one day, and my mother was on the phone with the police, and she looked at me as I came in the door, she said, “Don’t go online,” and I was like, “Why?” and she’s like, “Just know that I’m taking care of it, but don’t go online.” What do – I’m a teenager and my mother is telling me not to do something, like, what am I going to do? So, of course I went online and the stuff I saw was horrifying. My – my high school and our competing high school, which it had spread to, um, was split in a debate of like, who believes Melanie and who doesn’t and it was – like, people’s statuses – like, people were actively discussing it and my abuser was online talking about it and –

 

Paul: What was your abuser saying?

 

Melanie: Uh, things like that, um – really – like a lot of conflicting things, like, I don’t know why anybody believed her but uh, lots of like, I – I wanted these things, I asked for these things, I’m lying about these things because I hate her because she’s queer, which doesn’t work because my friends know that I’m queer and they – you know, I figured that out in middle school so whenever someone read that they’re like, “Okay, well that can’t be right!” Um, that it was ‘experimentation’ – yeah. So, a lot of people were saying really horrifying things and uh, really, really hard to read.

 

Paul: Oh, that must have been brutal.

 

Melanie: Yeah, it was really bad. And it’s so surreal, because you’re not, like, in a room with people talking about it, you’re just watching – you’re watching – like, you’re just watching your dashboard refresh and refresh and there’s more and more people talking about something you – you just accepted as a reality like, I –

 

Paul: It’s like a living version of that nightmare you have where you are sitting in class and you realize you forgot to wear clothes.

 

Melanie: That’s exactly what it’s like – that’s exactly what it’s like. Uh, yeah. Really, really horrifying. And you know, a lot of people remember the really, like, terrible things that people say, but there’s only one thing I really distinctly remember, and it was by this guy, Jack. We had been friends in middle school, and it’s not like we had a falling out or anything, he just got really hot over summer break and was like, swept away by the popular kids so I – but there was no animosity or anything, it was just like, “Okay, we’re on different ends of the spectrum here,” – um, and we just never really hung out again. And so, you have to imagine it’s been 4 years since I’ve spoken to Jack, and Jack made a status that was like, something along the lines of, “If you are discussing, interested in discussing, or in any way exploiting Melanie’s information, um, I need you to lose my number immediately,” like, “I don’t want to speak to any of you again, Melanie would never lie about something like this and that’s all I have to say on the matter.” And it was like, what – wow! Like, from middle school, like, you just got a read on me and it stayed with you to like, such a degree that you’d make a – and as a popular kid, just making a stand like that was a really –

 

Paul: Wow, that’s beautiful.

 

Melanie: It was – and that’s the one that stayed with me, like instead – I know that there were really ugly things I read that day, but I don’t remember any of them, I just remember that one.

 

Paul: Did you talk to him after that or message him?

 

Melanie: I was pretty scared. I messaged him actually, like, 2 years later and – I messaged him – he’d lost his father to cancer, I messaged him and uh, I had said, you know, “I’m so sorry I didn’t reach out earlier, it was like, a really hard time for me and it was really hard to communicate with anyone,” um, but you know, “I'm so sorry for your loss, I’m here if you need me, and just know that you were there for me in a really desperate time of need.” He never replied and I think that he was in a – a really dark place losing his father –

 

Paul: Yeah.

 

Melanie: So, we never really got in touch – I mean, like, you know, we’re still friends on Facebook or whatever, so it’s not like, I don’t know, we’re actively avoiding one another but I think we’ve both reached out to each other in a weird way during a weird time for both of us, so –

 

Paul: I think you should have messaged him and said, “I don’t believe your dad died of cancer.”

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] I hear this is just experimentation – are you – [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Uh, I have a couple of questions that I – that I hope don’t make you uncomfortable, um, regarding the abuse –

 

Melanie: Alright. Let’s do it, let’s get uncomfortable.

 

Paul: But one of the – the things – since I’ve started talking about, um, sexual abuse on the program, um, and relationships, if you can call them that, with the abuser, there was often a side to that relationship that is – I hate to use the word ‘positive’ but different than the abusive side to the relationship. There is sometimes –

 

Melanie: There’s a Jekyll and Hyde. There’s a Jekyll and Hyde effect, yeah.

 

Paul: Yes, and sometimes there is a – um, an aspect to the abuse that is – kind of doesn't make sense and that it – it – um – I don’t know, maybe it feels good or it – it feels like, uh, the attention feels good – was any of that in play in your relationship with this person or was it all kind of uh, uh, a horror – a horror show.

 

Melanie: Um, I’m going to say 90% horror show and there – 10% of the time there would be really brief, fleeting moments of okayness and um – and it was usually, um, me reaching out with kindness – um, so, there was, um, one time that –

 

Paul: And she – and she would receive that – it touched her to see you being –

 

Melanie: I don’t know if it touched her – I don’t know if anything was able to touch her, but there were times that she’d be in emotional distress about something and I would just – I would offer comfort and like, a hug or like, some show of affection – I would be like, “Let me make hot chocolate, let me make you tea,” like, “Let’s sit down and,” – I don’t know, I just – I would host her, and that would, um, you know, help take her down from whatever she was feeling but um, there was always – I was always trying to, like – I was always trying to escape it without saying what was going on, so I would – I told lots of lies about things that she said and did – I didn’t even have to lie, I could just have told people some of the horrifying things I’ve seen her do, but I – I just couldn’t. The truth was way harder to talk about than just making things up and I remember I was, um, in Girl Scouts for a while and uh, we were making, um, like, I don’t know, like, paper mâché flowerpots for Mother’s Day or something and my abuser wanted to make one too, and give it to my mother and I told my mother that I didn’t feel comfortable with that, I was like, trying to give her a clue that whatever is going on – like, that’s not something a friend would say about a friend, like, I’m trying to give her a flag and she told me not to be so inconsiderate and to feel bad for her because she doesn’t have a mother. So, I said, “Okay, I guess I’m going to feel bad for her because she doesn’t have a mother,” and I’m going, “I have to share mine.” And that’s been with everybody – I have to share my mother with everybody. Um, yeah, uh, so there were like, you know, really brief moments of okayness but it was mostly a horror show. Um, there were times that I would initiate, uh, sexual – it’s like – like, if I – [Sighs.] – one of my triggers, uh, is when I know someone’s angry with me and they’re not telling me or they’re not talking about it, and I can feel – I feel it, I know when someone’s angry at me.

 

Paul: I fucking hate it. It’s so – I would almost rather walk over hot coals.

 

Melanie: Yeah, no. It’s – it’s terrible and I could feel when she was particularly angry and I knew that for me, that meant it’s going to be a really bad day. So, I would initiate sexual stuff to – to bypass the violence and that, like – so, there were times that I did that and it was like, um – a sort of illusion of control, um, but I was pretty divorced from my feelings and –

 

Paul: And – and the reason I ask those questions is because on the surveys and in my own personal story, um, so many of us think if there could have been pleasant moments in a relationship with somebody, or pleasant moments when the abuse was happening, or pleasurable moments that that negates this being an abusive relationship and I – whenever possible, I want to show a realistic 3D version of what those relationships can look like.

 

Melanie: Well, I mean, I had a really abusive relationship with my boyfriend for a long time, and it was really just – it was a mirror of my parents’ marriage, because that’s what we do, so, we just – we repeat those mistakes because that’s what we saw, and so we recreate it. Um, so I found someone who was totally emotionally unattached and I was like, “Oh, my love is going to fix you,” because that’s what, you know, my mother taught me is that I’m just going to continually throw myself onto the sword until you’re happy and then I’m going to feel complete and spoiler alert, I did not!

 

Paul: [Laughs.]

 

Melanie: That’s not usually how it works out. But that – that relationship, um, was really abusive and he would get really angry – like, throw stuff, like really, like get physical with his anger. He never hit me or anything but he was scary when he’d get angry and never met any of my emotional needs, um –

 

Paul: At least he was consistent.

 

Melanie: Yeah, at least he was consistent! [Laughs.] Um, and even when he knew what happened to me, the – like, the date rape – the event of date rape with him came after he’d long known that I’d been abused, and it wasn’t – it was like a – like a – like, I verbally said ‘no’, and he ignored me and it’s not because he’s, um, an unfeeling person, it’s just he’s an entitled douchebag – like, he just feels – like he just feels like he’s entitled, so that’s a – it’s a big – those are two different kinds of abusers, like one, I have a sociopath that abused me for a long time, and then I had a boyfriend who was like, just – he was just – you know, like, dumb. He was just - he would never intentionally hurt me like that, but –

 

Paul: So, the difference between somebody who got off on the ‘no’ and somebody who thought you really didn’t mean no.

 

Melanie: Yeah, and that relationship with him, there were – like, moments of bliss, moments of bliss – like, so happy and um, I was just head over heels and never had eyes for anyone else, just loved him and uh – and I found that, you know, when you love a person, you continue to love them no matter what happens, and he’s not in my life anymore and he can’t be my life anymore and same for David, um, but I love both of them. I love both of them to death and I – I hope that the universe is kind to them. They can’t be part of my life, they are both dangerous people that cannot be part of my life, but um, I think that’s the complicated – a lot of people think that you need to – to forgive, which I hate hearing. Whenever somebody says –

 

Paul: Thank you for saying that.

 

Melanie: Oh my god. Whenever I hear someone –

 

Paul: Forgiveness is awesome, but don’t ever – don’t ever feel like you should.

 

Melanie: Totally not required.

 

Paul: It has to come from a place that’s organic and feels right.

 

Melanie: Yeah. And it’s – oh my gosh, whenever I hear somebody say, like, “Just let go,” oh my god, like I haven’t thought of that, like, “Oh! Thanks for bringing it up, I never thought of it that way!” Um, just – it makes me crazy – um, like, no – I don’t forgive my ex-boyfriend for assaulting me. I don’t forgive that, but I get what happened, that helps me live with it, um, and I’m okay with my past, and that – like, that’s – that’s all that is. I don’t – I don’t think I could ever forgive someone who, you know, does something like, you know – and it is violence. It’s violence. It’s just sexualized. Um, yeah. I’ve – I don’t think I could forgive anybody, and I don’t forgive my abuser, certainly not. Um, destroyed my childhood, um, made a massacre of my brain, um…

 

Paul: Is, uh, physical intimacy different – difficult for you?

 

Melanie: Um, not with my husband – I think that’s because it’s so highly different. I don’t know what it would be like with a different partner – um, my first time being intimate with another cisgender woman, um, was – and that being consensual, that was a really high anxiety –

 

Paul: God, how couldn’t it be?

 

Melanie: But it was something I wanted – because, you know, I – I am queer and it was an experience I wanted and I wanted it to be intimate and good and – and she made it that way. She was -

 

Paul: She knew your history.

 

Melanie: Yeah, and she was sweet and like, really patient and constantly checking in on me and it was – and it was a really good experience that I had.

 

Paul: Did you cry or dissociate?

 

Melanie: No, I – there were moments of like, heart palpitations, but no panic attack.

 

Paul: That’s called an orgasm!

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] No, that’s definitely not what my orgasms feel like! Way more pleasant than the heart palpitations and certainly couldn’t mistake one for the other! Uh, yeah, no I mean, um, so I was able to have that pleasant experience but that did – there was so much hesitance –

 

Paul: It must have been terrifying.

 

Melanie: Yeah, it was very, very scary. It’s – because it felt a lot like walking into the lion’s den – it’s like, this is – like, I’m – it’s not the same person, but you know –

 

Paul: All the triggers are there.

 

Melanie: Yeah, like all my triggers are there so, uh, yeah. It was scary but that was something that I really wanted to conquer and I did and uh, to this day it's still like, a little bit of a scary thing but not something um, I can’t overcome. Um, with my husband, Nathan, um, he developed post-traumatic stress from uh, bootcamp and he had some bad traumas also, um, growing up and pretty severe dysthymia that comes and goes, so he’s just – he is very sensitive to my needs and like, really sensitive to, you know, just – my psychological self, um, and I mean, he’s – like, he always asks before holding my hand. Like, that’s the kind of guy he is. Like, unless you like, unless – like, he usually allows me to initiate touch first, um, and always asking, you know, permission and to be in my space and – he’s really, really considerate of all that stuff.

 

Paul: How – how did he arrive at a place like that, because, um, I don’t think that’s the norm, especially for guys. How old is he?

 

Melanie: He’s 23.

 

Paul: Yeah, especially for guys that age.

 

Melanie: Yeah. Um, well, he had a pretty terrible sexual experience himself. He doesn’t regard it as sexual assault and I’m not really sure what school it falls into. Um, he wasn’t – he wasn’t ready, I guess, uh, and it was sort of rushed on him but he wanted it to happen? It was a very confusing thing for him but –

 

Paul: Was it with an older woman or a man or…?

 

Melanie: A girl – it was a girl, like, within his age range and she was horrible to him. It was a really, really abusive ex-girlfriend but um, but yeah, it was a horrible sexual experience for him and I think that – he’s a sensitive person no matter – like, even before that very sensitive, but I think that experience made him more aware of like, oh, there’s a grey area, it’s not just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, like, I’m ready or I’m not – like, there’s – there’s a grey area and um, I think that made him more sensitive to it and I remember when I told him that I had been abused, um, he was – and I also love this – when I tell people that I’ve been abused, I really like it when everyone remains calm. [Laughs.] Like, people who like, get really wide-eyed and like, worried about me and like, get in my space, like, oh my god, I’m so sorry to sound – that really, like, really throws me – I really don’t like it – and he was totally chill about it, he was like, “That is fucking horrible.” It’s why I didn’t – I didn’t bring him here, actually, because, um, when I do tell some of these stories, I sensor them for him because it’s horrible for him, he hates – he hates hearing the details and it’s not that I can’t go to him with those details but I would be tempted to sensor myself if he was here, so that’s why he had to stay at the hotel.

 

Paul: Um, having alters – does it help somebody not have nightmares about stuff that happened, or do you still get - have nightmares?

 

Melanie: I still have nightmares, and Mel is – she can – she can control my nightmares and in the last couple of months she’s been, like, directing and composing a really specific nightmare, uh, and it’s very – it’s like, really detailed and – so, when I - I had a suicide attempt when I was 12, and I was partially dissociated for it, and I’m sure it was Mel because Mel is the only alter that has ever tried to physically harm me or anyone else, and um, she – the attempt was, um, taking my mother’s, um – like, from her, like, special set, um, a huge serrated knife, which she took to my jugular, and –

 

Paul: Oh my god.

 

Melanie: And my sister walked in on me – it was in the kitchen, like, I – and it must have been so bizarre, like, I was – I had just walked out of the shower and I don’t know how long I was in there, like I was just, like, floating through time, like, totally unattached to what was happening and I walked out and I remember that there was a lot of steam and I remember what the floor felt like under my feet and getting up to the kitchen counter and I remember, like, that the slice but then I remember I, like, heard a noise – maybe like, a gasp or something, I turned and my sister was, like, in the doorway of the kitchen, like, looking at me. It must have been just so fucking bizarre for her, and she blocked that memory and I eventually brought it up to her again and when it resurfaced she was like, “Oh my god, no, I remember now,” and it was really horrifying for her. Um, there’s – I think there’s a couple of things that she’s blocked – there are times that I’ve brought up things like, “You saw this happen,” and she’s like, “Mmm…I don’t know.”

 

Paul: And so does – does Mel bring this back up in your dreams or your nightmares?

 

Melanie: Well, Mel is, um, my abuser, really, so the night – I’ve never self-harmed. Um, I’ve never cut, I’ve never been interested in cutting - that knife was the big red flag of – that that’s not me, that’s someone else, because that’s totally someone else’s weapon of choice – uh, and that was also such a weird night, like, they were – like, my mother was just, like, rushing me to different psychologists because I had to go to her, like – my sister forced me to go to her and tell her I was suicidal and then my mom is on the phone with like, Oxford, because she’s like, “What do I do?” and they gave her all these offices to go to, it’s like, 7pm, and there was a really, like – between 2 appointments, my parents ordered pizza and we all sat on the living room floor and ate pizza and like, aggressively didn’t talk about what was happening! [Laughs.] It was such a weird – I’m like, it’s so surreal.

 

Paul: [Laughs.] I think there’s a suburban award for that!

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Yeah.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: Yeah. Um, so, so Mel uses knives is the point of that –

 

Paul: And your sister – speaking of memories, also, um, walked in on you being abused one time and she –

 

Melanie: Yeah.

 

Paul: - consistently forgets about that.

 

Melanie: Yes. Yeah. Consistently. Whenever I bring it up and it’s, um – I’ve, you know, at this point now that it’s been documented, she – we did talk about it again after I put the blog entry up, and um, uh, she spoke to me about it and she’s like, “I’m not sure that I blocked that, I think that like, maybe I have a memory sort of like it where I thought it was something else going on,” I was like, “There’s no way you could have mistaken this for anything else going on.” I don’t know if she believes me or not, but um, there was a lot of stuff that I had to – I had to go to her about for chronology and um, you know, a lot of – a lot of help.

 

Paul: So, has your memory improved with – improved with some of the integration of your alters?

 

Melanie: Yes.

 

Paul: And which ones again are integrated into you now?

 

Melanie: Mellie, who’s 6, and Hide, who does not have an age.

 

Paul: Oh, okay. Um…

 

Melanie: And ‘Mellie’ is what my grandmother used to call me when I was very little.

 

Paul: Okay. And – and which ones aren’t? Mel…

 

Melanie: Mel and Lily.

 

Paul: Mel and Lily are still – still out there.

 

Melanie: Yes, and Lily claims that she’s only refusing integration because Mel doesn’t want her to integrate.

 

Paul: Interesting.

 

Melanie: Yeah. And all my alters are aware of each other, they are – and my alters that are still there are aware of the alters that once were, um –

 

Paul: And tell me about the one that – that you just brought up, which you haven’t mentioned before.

 

Melanie: Mellie?

 

Paul: Mellie.

 

Melanie: She’s my response to eustress.

 

Paul: To what?

 

Melanie: To eustress – like, uh, eustress – happy – stress that is caused by happiness.

 

Paul: I’ve never heard that word.

 

Melanie: Yeah. Eustress. When you get eustress – you get eustress when it’s your wedding day or things like that. Stress that’s caused by happy things – um, and I have – when things are going well, um, I have a panic response because my brain goes, “This is a fucking trap. This is a fucking trap!”

 

Paul: I was just going to say –

 

Melanie: “Good things don’t happen to you, motherfucker, so this is a trap!” So, uh, so yeah, and – but she was – she’s – or she was, she was like, a little girl and I used to describe her as ‘easily abductable’ – like, very – like, really trusting, wanted to color, had horrible handwriting, and was really very loving and happy and when I – where I couldn’t accept happiness, she could.

 

Paul: That sounds like she’s the ‘you’ before the abuse happened that had to break off to protect – to survive.

 

Melanie: Yeah, she may have been – she may have been a version of myself that could have been.

 

Paul: Right.

 

Melanie: Yeah. Um, so –

 

Paul: Like, a normal kid for that age.

 

Melanie: Yes, like a totally normal kid for that age. Um, yeah, and uh, integration therapy had a lot to do with, like, um, what they do in integration therapy is they initiate dissociation to get to know your alters, figure out how many there are, and um, then it’s about finding the window right before you dissociate, so you’re put in like, high stress situations, uh –

 

Paul: Like, for example…

 

Melanie: So, like, we’d work on my emetaphobia, um, and um, like, there was an event with my abuser where, um, she had vomited, she knew I was scared of vomit, and had like, forced a kiss on me and it was really horrible for me and now I can recount that memory – my emetaphobia I’ve been working on for a very long time so I’m able to recount these things without feeling disturbed – it’s only now if I feel sick or if someone around me is sick that I freak out, um, but uh, we were – so, like, she’ll – you know, my psychologist would take something specific like that, and we’d – we’d recount the memory in great detail until I’m in a place of – of discomfort, big enough that I’m going to dissociate, and there’s a – there’s a window, like there’s this really small window right before you dissociate where like, the psychologist shoves themselves in and they’re like, “Hold on. Hold onto reality. You’re here, you’re here with me, everything around you is real, just stay with me,” and when they find that window, that’s the integration – that’s where integration really begins, once they find the window, they realize how much time and how much stress they can put on you until you dissociate and then engaging the alters is really important, um, so you know, Mellie was super – super easy to assign a task to, because alters only exist to protect you, and they don’t realize that their job is done.

 

Paul: Even though an alter may be on the surface abusive, that was still a way of protecting you.

 

Melanie: Right. Um, like, Mel’s sole desire is to kill my abuser, and like, murder violently, and that is not an impulse that I have, that’s not a desire I have, uh –

 

Paul: It’s interesting though that Mel also tells you terrible things about yourself, but Mel just – sounds like Mel just hates everybody.

 

Melanie: Oh yeah, yeah. There – she’s claimed that there’s only 2 people she cares about, which um – my platonic soulmate, Holly, who’s someone I grew up, and my abusive ex-boyfriend, so, those are the only 2 people –

 

Paul: Interesting.

 

Melanie: Yeah, only 2 people that she cares about in the world - uh, and at like – and she’s like, really rude and terrible to everybody else but there’s like, really weird differences. She has skills where I don't, like, she’s really good in a fight and I – you know, I don’t wear, like, laced shoes because I trip, like, I can’t fight someone! [Laughs.] I can’t fight anybody!

 

Paul: When was the last time Mel came out and confronted somebody in – and you heard about it later?

 

Melanie: Um, I’m going to say junior year of high school was the last time.

 

Paul: Oh, so it’s been a long time.

 

Melanie: Yes. Before this last dissociation where I was meditating, I hadn’t lost a block of time since 2011. That would have been the last time, but my record is broken, so – um, and the last time that I had lost time was to Lily and that was an alter I didn’t know, and that’s – that was – I had a dissociative fugue, and a dissociative fugue is when you find that you have travelled somewhere and you have no memory of having travelled there and I had a pretty big dissociative fugue and it was caused by a trigger that I didn’t know I had and um, my mother had slammed the door in my face just at my nose and um, I didn’t remember this, but um, when it was brought up – my friends brought it up to Lily when I was in the meditative state, they asked Lily about it and she explained and shared a memory that I don’t have, um, about why that was a trigger, um, and it was – it’s – it’s alarming, it’s – you know, your brain is, um, split up into like, these different – different schools and they can – it’s just – it’s really – multitasking on a level a lot of people have a hard time understanding, uh, but Lily, that’s - the big giveaway that Lily was a new alter was that she knew how to drive, and she drove about 40 miles out of town, and so when I came to, I was in the car, pulled over on a – like, on the side of a road that had no lights, I had no idea where I was, I had like, 30 missed calls, no one had – knew where I’d gone, it was pretty petrifying for everyone, uh, so – and that was like, the – and again it’s just like – that’s my life so it’s just like, I – I was like, “Okay, so something horrifying has happened, I’m going to turn the car back on and put my GPS on and go home!” There’s nothing else to do! You just – you keep moving, um, yeah. Really horrifying things have happened. Mel, the last time she presented herself, she really violently attacked, uh, one of my friends, and uh, when I say violent, I mean, like, um, the fight ended with his head being shoved between my glass closing door to the backyard – like, that’s how that fight ended, like, the – not – it’s like, that person has to be down on the ground for her to feel satisfied.

 

Paul: Do you remember what it was that triggered it?

 

Melanie: Yes, and this is, uh - this is because of flooding that I got these memories back – um, but, uh, Kevin had figured out that David was gay and that was a secret that I had been keeping for a long time, because David wasn’t ready to come out, and Kevin figured it out in my presence, and was like, went to me, like, “Is it true?” and I was like, I was like, frozen, like, “I didn’t – I don’t know anything!” but it was like, very apparent that I did, and apparently, like, the next day David, like, freaked out on me and was like, “I can’t believe you’d tell my secret,” I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and people were so used to me, like, lying at that point, even though it was really just me not being attached to reality, there were things I didn’t remember doing or saying and so people thought that I was just a liar, um, which was so frustrating and that’s also a trigger for me, whenever somebody accuses me of lying, that’s why I’m so – I’m so transparent now, I don’t tell any lies – I’m so transparent with everybody – I think to a healthy degree, like, I’m not, like – [Laughs.]

 

Paul: You don’t overshare.

 

Melanie: Yeah, I don’t overshare but – and if I’m about to overshare I announce it, so, “Here’s too much information!” and you know? Then I’ll share something. Yeah, so -

 

Paul: So, that – that –

 

Melanie: David – yeah, David accused me of having told someone and I – I figured out that Kevin had confronted David about it on like, the bus or something, and uh, David was horrified and he was like, “How did you find out?” and Kevin was like, “Melanie told me,” and threw me under the proverbial bus and uh, it was – and I – I don’t – that’s where, like, I – I think that I checked out, because uh, David left the house after confronting me about it, and then I went to the phone, the landline that I used to have –

 

Paul: Mmhmm. Ask Clarabelle to patch it through to Sycamore at 9600!

 

Melanie: That cord that’s like, 20 feet long? Yeah. And I called Kevin and I was like, “Come over here,” and I – I was gone by that point but the memories that I got back, he came over and I just – I called for the purpose of beating the shit out of him, I made him come to my house for that, and um, beat the shit out of him and this is someone I’d known since I was 5 years old, and I loved – I loved him to pieces – I still – I love him so much, and we’re still friends – we’re still friends. When he figured out that I was ill, he really forgave everything, uh, which is really very kind and much more than a lot of people are capable of doing, but he was really able to just forgive that and he was like, “Okay, you were unhealthy,” like, he’s still twitchy around me but I don’t blame him. Uh, yeah, that was the last time she was really violent and –

 

Paul: Um, I’m always looking for silver linings in things, however small. Are there any silver linings for you with what you’ve experienced and who you are today as a result of that?

 

Melanie: Well…

 

Paul: Or is it all just a shitshow?

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Life is horrible, I’m horrible, I should feel horrible. Um, well, uh, I – [Sighs.] – the silver lining being I think it’s because I have to accept that I can’t change what happened, uh, which was really – it’s – also when you don’t have a good grasp on time and your past, really hard to accept that you can’t change it, uh, and once I was able to accept that like, that’s over, and now I’m a person who’s, like, free and I can get healthy, um, I – I mean I guess I looked back on my experiences and said I’ve – I have some things, like, I have an emotional sensitivity that maybe I wouldn’t have acquired otherwise, um, and I’m also – I know that I’m very validating for other people, like, you could come up to me with anything, you could have clinical lycanthropy and I’ll be like, “Yeah, yeah.” That’s – maybe sometimes you’re a werewolf, and if that’s, like, your reality, that’s your reality and I will validate you, like, you just come over and we’ll talk about really weird lines of reality – um, so, I don’t know that I would have acquired that, um –

 

Paul: Be fair to call you an empath?

 

Melanie: Yes, definitely.

 

Paul: I think – I think a lot of abuse survivors, um – it’s almost like they hit a fork in the road where they either become like their abusers or they become an empath or maybe

they go down one road – you know, I think I kind of was an abuser –

 

Melanie: Yeah?

 

Paul: - for – for a while, um, I’ve talked about it many times on the podcast that I treated – objectified women, and was a pig and a lot of stuff I’m really ashamed of, um, but I’m not that person any – anymore and I feel like I wouldn’t have the empathy – there was always an empathy component inside me but it got buried by the pain and the anger and all that stuff –

 

Melanie: Absolutely.

 

Paul: - and then I think what’s so great about when we get into therapy and we start to heal is then that empath really kind of steps to – to the fore.

 

Melanie: I had so much internalized misogyny – so much, and especially because I was abused by a woman that I was like – there was a – there was like, a – a hatred and a fear of women and I – that’s why like, I – even though it was degrading to me, I took place – I took part in a lot of misogynistic language and uh, objectification and –

 

Paul: Can you be more specific?

 

Melanie: Um, you know, I did a lot of girl hating, which you know, it’s like, “Oh, she’s beautiful and so I’m going to call her a whore,” like, things like that –

 

Paul: Slut – slut shaming and –

 

Melanie: Yeah, slut shaming, um, you know, I mean, I used a lot of, uh, derogatory language. Something I used to call one of my friends, uh, I used to call him ‘Faggoty Anne’, that was my – one of my favorite things to call him, which is – that’s like – that’s a whole – that’s a great, um, like, we’re homophobic and misogynistic in the same – we got a double whammy there! Um, oh god. Yeah, no, there was definitely a lot of – and I grew past that, um, and I’m certainly glad I did, but I don’t know if that would have developed if I had not been abused – I feel like I’ve – I would have been a more sensitive person, I would have gone down – like, I wouldn’t have had that kind of anger, um, yeah. Uh, I think though that the biggest thing, uh, is Nathan, and um, we didn’t get married because it’s like, “We’re in love and everything is going to work out,” it’s like – [Laughs.] – I’m pretty down to earth and I never wanted to get married, because I’m a commitment-phobe, I can like, hardly make a decision in a restaurant, so that was a petrifying thing, being asked to get married but we reached this, you know, crossroads where it was like – he was going away and the only way we could stay together was if we got married or I could let him go and we’d both go our separate ways, and the only thing that really made me agree to marriage was that, like, in my heart of hearts I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t – like, whatever wonderful thing we have hasn’t run its course out yet – it’s been 6 years, it’s been really beautiful and amazing, he’s my best friend, like, what a soulful connection and, uh - I – whatever happened to me led me to him and if the events had unfolded in any other way, I don’t know where I’d be but I might not have him and so, that’s – that’s the biggest silver lining. Absolutely.

 

Paul: Thank you for sharing that.

 

Melanie: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Paul: Do you want to share some fears and loves before, uh - before we’re done? Or is there anything else that you wanted to share?

 

Melanie: I think there’s one more thing I wanted to share. Yeah. Um, I wanted to make note of, uh, a teacher, because my whole life I was looking for stand-in father figures – um, my first one was Atticus Finch, I think my second one was John Stewart - [Laughs.]

 

Paul: You’ve got good taste!

 

Melanie: Thank you, thank you very much. Um, eventually I chose my ninth grade English teacher, uh, because he stuck up to a bully for me—

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: Which was - yeah, and it was the first time I was like, “Oh, an adult man cares about me,” and it was his first time not being a TA, so I think he was like, petrified - I was like, such a liability - I was like, following him around, and I was like, going to his extra help classes even though I didn’t need to be there, like, I probably gave him, like, a condition – um, but when I – when I came forward and before I moved, I went to him and you know, he stuck up for me to this bully and, uh, he would also – I could just go to him with my creative writing and I would ask him to read it and edit it and he would find the time to do that for me – like, he had all these tests to grade, like, he was running so many classes and it was his first year teaching alone, and he still found the time to do that for me, and – like, such, like – looking – at the time I was, like, so excited about it and I didn’t think about his responsibilities, but looking back it’s such an amazing thing that – and you know, a small, really amazing thing and when I came forward and I waited until the last day of school and I went to him and I told him that I wanted him to know that I had been abused for a long time and I kind of like – you know, I didn’t go into graphic detail but I let him know and uh, he looked pretty distressed and the first thing he said to me was, “I knew your writing was too good for something bad not to have happened to you.” [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Makes total sense.

 

Melanie: I said, “Thank you,” and you know, he kind of asked me some – the basics, like, are you going to press charges, things like that, but he made himself present and uh, I – when I gave lectures to classes, this was usually me – like, my closer – it’s really easy to be kind and I was bullied horribly at school – I had garbage thrown at me, they had a chant for me when I came into the cafeteria –

 

Paul: Oh my god.

 

Melanie: Oh my gosh it was awful – it was to, um, oh, Bob the Builder, it was “Mel the Monster, can she eat it? Mel the Monster, yes she can.” Yeah, it was horrible – kids are horrible. 13 and 14-year-olds are just condensed evil.

 

Paul: [Laughs.]

 

Melanie: I’m still terrified of them to this day – um, but, you know, those small kindnesses made such a world of difference, like, just – because I knew what I was going home to, like, emotionally absent father, emotionally incestuous mother, and you know, my sister, we didn’t really become friends until much later because my mother totally poisoned that relationship – she’s like, “Melanie is the dumb one and you’re the really smart one, and you guys aren’t going to get along,” or something? I don’t know, but she really poisoned that relationship and we didn’t become friends until later, so I didn’t really have my sister to rely on during those times, and every small kindness was so appreciated and you just – because – and no one knew what was going on with me – no one knew until I came forward, uh - you just don’t know what someone’s going through and even if you don’t understand it, like, DID, like, if I say to someone that I have DID and there’s just no way that they can get their heads around that, just being present in a conversation, um, that’s – it’s a small thing that everybody is pretty much capable of and it’s – it’s so deeply appreciated I think from all people who are survivors of anything and really anybody – even if you haven’t survived a trauma, receiving a small kindness is really incredible and that’s – I do my RAKs every day which is a Random Act of Kindness to make sure –

 

Paul: Good for you – what are some favorites?

 

Melanie: Um, there was one time I was – I had to go to the bank and I guess the high school nearby had just let out, and I got out of the bank and I saw this girl, she had like – like, drenched and she’s like, on her phone and I guess – she looked really pitiful and I looked at her and I was like, “You know, I – like, do you live nearby? Do you want me to give you a ride?” and she was like, a little freaked out, I was like, “I’m not a serial killer, I know that doesn’t really,” – [Laughs.] – I mean, like, “but look at me, you could totally take me, like, I’m 5 foot flat, like that’s it, and I’m made mostly of ice cream, like, it’s not – I can be taken down really easily,” and she was just eventually like, “Okay.” And she got in the car, I drove her home and I dropped her off, and um – and as she was getting out of the car, I was like, “But don’t get into cars with strangers again, like, this is the one – I’m the one,” –

 

Paul: The one exception!

 

Melanie: “I’m the one exception, everyone else is a serial killer,” and I closed the door and I left, so – and it was funny, like, I saw her mother coming out, like, so alarmed that she was in a stranger’s car – that was one of my favorites. Um, there was, um, one time that I – I saw a woman coming out of a Publix grocery store, she was older and um, she had her cart but – and you know, Publix, they usually have someone escort you out, but for whatever reason they didn’t have someone with her, so I – I took my cart with me and I went – I went to her and I asked her if she wanted any help and she said yes, and I helped her load her car and she was just so thankful to me – it was like, you know, it’s just a small thing and she gets to go home and say, “Oh, this young’un was so nice to me today!”

 

Paul: Nice.

 

Melanie: You know, I get to go home feeling a little bit better, like, “Okay, the world was slightly less shitty for someone today.” That’s a good difference to make.

 

Paul: Yeah, and you feel more connected to it which is really cool – a really cool thing. Give me – give me some fears.

 

Melanie: Okay. I put together some really good ones.

 

Paul: Yeah?

 

Melanie: Oh yeah. [Laughs.] Um, uh, one of my fears is – most if not all of my memories are false and the abuse I suffered is a creation of a very sick mind, and every time someone tells me I am brave or strong for having endured, I am taking credit for something I imagined.

 

Paul: Wow. Wow.

 

Melanie: Yeah, how about that? [Laughs.] You got – you have to have a fear. C’mon.

 

Paul: That one just hit me so hard, you know, I’ve – I think all abuse survivors have some degree of that – some degree that the – their memory can’t be trusted and if it’s not a made up thing, it’s an exaggerated thing.

 

Melanie: Yeah, and we all invalidate ourselves all the time.

 

Paul: Yeah. Um, I’m afraid our country is headed towards civil war. I don’t want to get into a political discussion -

 

Melanie: Yeah, no, but me too. My husband and I – we agree. Very interesting. We were just in a discussion about that, like, earlier this week. Um, my most violent alter will never integrate and at some point I will see my abuser again and that alter will murder my abuser and no one will believe the depth of my mental illness because I present as so neurotypical and I’ll have to spend years in prison for her murder with no memory of actually committing it.

 

Paul: I will totally visit you though.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Thank you, wow.

 

Paul: I am so there.

 

Melanie: Okay, well, thank you.

 

Paul: Books and potato chips, and I’ll deposit a couple of dollars in your account so that you can get Ramen noodles.

 

Melanie: Aww. That’s gonna be your RAK for me – well, thank you! [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Yes. I have your back in the most minimal way possible, rest assured.

 

Melanie: Ah, love that!

 

Paul: Uh, I am - god, I say this one a lot but I’m afraid I’m never going to get my mojo back – my passion – my passion back – my passion for playing guitar and woodworking – it’s just, uh – it’s just frustrating. It’s just frustrating.

 

Melanie: Yeah. No, well, as a writer, when I get blocks it’s so, so frustrating. So frustrating. Um, hmm. I’m petrified of dying by tsunamis or a landslide, they scare the shit out of me, seeing – the idea that you can see something coming, that something is so enormous and so visible from so far with so many warning signs and being completely unable to do anything about it.

 

Paul: There is no nightmare I have more frequently than being killed by a giant wave – being killed by a tsunami and it’s – we’re on the beach and I’m one of the first people to know that it’s coming because there’s an earthquake and I tell my wife there’s a tsunami coming and we’re trying to get to higher ground, but we can’t.

 

Melanie: Yeah, no, that’s – that is a big, big fear. Yeah. I’m petrified of that.

 

Paul: Give me another one.

 

Melanie: Um, the one story of mine that is worth telling is the only one I don’t want to write.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] I told you, I’m coming in strong!

 

Paul: It’s just too – it’s just too painful the thought of going back in and –

 

Melanie: You know, it’s – and I’ve spoken to my psychologist – and more than anyone in my life, my psychologist has been so pushy with trying to get me to write a book about it, because she’s read some of my writing, she has so much faith in me, I almost feel like it’s misplaced because it’s so strong, but she said, “You know, there are some accounts of DID written by people, you know, with DID, but none – they’re not very well done, because, you know, writing might not be their strong suit but they’re trying to tell their story, but you have a skill in writing and you can tell the story,” – it’s – I guess it’s because it’s not something that inspires me, it’s something that – it scares me to recount and it’s always painful to recount, and um, oh my god, there’s just so many reasons – I wouldn’t even know where to start, uh, and do I focus on the abuse, do I focus on how it affected me psychologically, I would have to do more research into the chronology of my life because there’s so many, you know, missing –

 

Paul: God, that’s overwhelming.

 

Melanie: Yeah, so it’s – and I’m – you know, the – have you ever read the book Speak?

 

Paul: I don’t think so.

 

Melanie: They made a movie – I can’t remember the author’s name right now and it’s going to drive me crazy.

 

Paul: What’s it about – somebody coming forward about their abuse?

 

Melanie: Um, it’s about a teenage girl being, um, raped at a party and for one entire year, she doesn’t speak at all, and nobody notices because you never see what you’re not looking for so, uh, she doesn’t speak and then when she finally does speak, it all comes out and this author had published many books before it and only got famous from Speak – and that’s required reading for a lot of high schools across the States, and that’s her story and it’s the one that got her the recognition that she always wanted and it’s – and I’m fearful that it’s the same thing that I can write as many stories as I like and I have – I have a following online and I did want to say that I’m – even though I’m staying like, relatively anonymous that if anybody wants to get in touch with me I want to be able to give you that information to pass on –

 

Paul: Okay. Would you like to give it here now or would you rather give me a link that I put up on the website?

 

Melanie: Yeah, I’ll give you a link. I’ll give you a link to - where to reach me – but yeah, I’m worried that –

 

Paul: What aspect of the book do you think would be the hardest to talk about?

 

Melanie: [Sighs.] Um, there was, um, a moment – and it’s one memory and I know I couldn’t tell the story without it and I don’t know what happened, I just know there was a fight, and I had hardwood floors in my bedroom and there was one – I woke up and it was cold and I’d – there was –

 

Paul: You’d had a fight with your abuser?

 

Melanie: Yeah, and I tried to pick my head up, I was like, really dizzy, like, I may have even been concussed – like, I picked up my head but it, like, peeled off the floor and I realized that there was just congealed blood everywhere and I had no idea where it was coming from, and I had to sneak out of my room to go into the bathroom to wash off all the blood and um, I walked back into my room and I looked in my mirror… and didn’t see myself and it was – and I didn’t even feel anything. I didn’t feel terror, I didn’t feel any anxiety or sadness, I felt absolutely nothing and it was like I wasn’t there at all.

 

Paul: Holy shit.

 

Melanie: Yeah. And for – like, when I looked back on it, like you know, a couple of years ago, the first time I looked back on it, I thought it may have been a paranormal experience, but that’s just weird thing that my brain did, it’s like, “You can’t even look at yourself right now, so there’s nothing in the mirror,” and I just went to bed, because that was my life, yeah. And I think that describing that day in detail and like, you know, the day that followed – there was a lot – like, there was so many – so many days that I was like, “Oh, the blood on my sheets is from my period,” and – there’s so many lies I told my family, it’s really – there’s a lot of guilt associated with it, especially because people called me a liar so much because at the end of the day, it’s like, “Yeah, I did lie,” but I – you know, no one blames me for this lie, but at the end of the day I still lied and uh, I wear some shame for that and I think that that – the expressing of all the lies that I told would be really hard to write about.

 

Paul: I don’t know if I’ve met a survivor yet who hasn’t had some aspect of their experience, either the experience itself or their reaction to it, their coping mechanism, bring them some type of shame that they struggle with today.

 

Melanie: Yeah.

 

Paul: It – I often think is almost worse than the experience itself – the unmanageability of the ripples of trauma are so far reaching and confusing, um – it’s – yeah.

 

Melanie: There was so much suicidal ideation. So much suicidal ideation.

 

Paul: And for so many of us, the – we – during the events, we kind of left in a way and we almost can feel neutral about the things that happened to us, but the other things are the things that can be so incredibly painful and difficult and paralyzing…

 

Melanie: Well, yeah, and that’s the – I mean, that’s sort of the idea of this, like, it’s, um, an anomaly that’s like – you’re reacting in a normal way to an abnormal situation and – so, but – shame is not foreign to you, but the experience you had is probably surreal, your brain can’t process it because it’s never had that – but you know, it’s never been prepared for that, but you’ve been prepared for shame since like, I’m sure since you were little everybody’s – everybody’s got stories about their parents saying something horrible to them that never should have come out of anyone’s mouth – um, you know, long before I was Mel the Monster I heard so many things – my mother had me on, like, Jenny Craig when I was 10 – it was horrible, so much shame. That, I can relate to way more than what happens when I dissociate, or the trauma that happened – it’s just so hard to – and also I think it’s because it just feels like a monster, just like, it’s like – that’s a monster of a thing – like, such a can of worms to open, that it’s scary to even approach. Yeah.

 

Paul: Give me one more fear and then let’s do some loves.

 

Melanie: Um, alright. Hmm. I’ll pick a good one. [Sighs.] Um, there was a mentally healthy and normal version of myself that I was supposed to be, but the abuse I suffered sent me off track and I’m a damaged version of what I was meant for.

 

Paul: That’s a great one.

 

Melanie: Well, thank you.

 

Paul: That’s a really great one. I think all of us that have some type of wound or genetic illness feel that way – like, what if this egg hadn’t spoiled?

 

Melanie: Yeah, what if.

 

Paul: What a great omelette I would make!

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] If I weren’t rotten to the core it would be great!

 

Paul: Give me some loves.

 

Melanie: Um, my bedtime routine is probably my favorite time of the day – I brush my teeth – and by the way, I use Sensodyne and I just tell everybody use Sensodyne because it works!

 

Paul: Has it helped?

 

Melanie: It works, yeah. It’s helped me so much. Um, and I keep, um, I always have a glass of cold water and I take a sip of that – I know most people hate that, but I love that, getting that really cold sensation, and then I take – I take Klonopin at night, um, and that helps me manage – I take Wellbutrin in the morning and I take Klonopin at night, and I let the Klonopin melt under my tongue and I pick up one of my many books that's on my bedside table, and I just settle into bed and it’s such – like, just the series of those events is like, my favorite – my favorite part of the day.

 

Paul: I totally get it. For me it – lately it’s been, uh, a big bowl of popcorn and a protein bar and sitting at my, um, computer – my computer with, uh, headphones on, rewatching The Wire, which is the greatest drama ever – ever made.

 

Melanie: So I’ve heard!

 

Paul: Go ahead, give me another one.

 

Melanie: I love driving by houses, hotels or offices where the lights are still on at night and getting a glimpse of somebody’s life.

 

Paul: Yeah, those are great. I always feel creepy when I’m in a hotel and I look like I’m looking out at either apartment buildings or business things but I’m so fascinated by it – I suppose, you know, uh, I’m a voyeur, uh, I think so many of us are –

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Of normal life?

 

Paul: Yeah, not that I’m going around the neighborhood and peeking in people’s windows, but I love observing people who don’t know they’re being observed.

 

Melanie: Yeah, yeah. There’s – there was one distinct memory I have where I was in the car, I was in the passenger’s seat and we were going through a quiet suburban town, and we passed this house and this woman had her kitchen curtains open and the lights were on and she was setting up a pot of tea, and that was it – that was all I got to see as we went by and I was so warmed by that – I was like, “Oh, it’s like, 8pm, and she’s putting up tea,” like, she must be having – she’s either having a rough night or she’s having a really pleasant night. I hope she’s having a pleasant night and I get to just daydream about what that moment was for her – I love that.

 

Paul: That’s nice. That’s nice. Give me another one.

 

Melanie: Um, hmm. Uh, this might have to do with my, uh, dermatillomania, but I love peeling people’s sunburns!

 

Paul: That is a first! That is a first.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.] Yeah, no – and you wanted these to be specific, that is one of my greatest pleasures in life is if one of my friends is sunburnt, I wait – I’m waiting in the shadows – I’m waiting for that to start peeling and then you cannot escape me! It’s so gross – it’s so gross!

 

Paul: That is an awesome one.

 

Melanie: Thank you!

 

Paul: I love that – that, uh, moment in the Rolling Stones song “Beast of Burden” where, right before the, um, not the – what do you – you know, there’s the chorus, what’s the non-chorus – the verse – right before the verse starts, um, Mick Jagger says, “I tell ya” and he just does it – it’s just the rhythm of it –

 

Melanie: I know that moment!

 

Paul: It’s just kind of a throwaway but it’s just so cool – it’s got so much swagger to it, um – I love moments in rock songs where they include something that somebody was saying something to somebody in the beginning of it where they didn’t know they were rolling yet or somebody –

 

Melanie: Yeah, I love that.

 

Paul: – shouts in the middle of a song, like, uh, that – uh, that Muddy Waters song, um, “Mannish Boy” and you can hear Johnny Winter just so fucking fired up that Muddy Waters is playing music and recording again – that’s the reason why they called that – that album Hard Again because he said, “My dick is hard again,” from – from playing the blues, you know? And you can hear it in that recording of – Johnny Winter is recording and playing with his idol and Muddy Waters is back in his groove and Johnny Winter – he’s – he’s just overcome with joy at this experience and I love moments like that where it’s not on the page, but it’s in the performance.

 

Melanie: That’s one of the reasons that I love listening to the Beach Boys, because there was always, like, little moments in their recordings where you heard – like, maybe someone was like, a little off beat or something or you hear someone say something – I always love those.

 

Paul: Have you seen the movie where John Cusack plays Brian Wilson?

 

Melanie: No!

 

Paul: You have to rent it, it’s really good.

 

Melanie: Oh, wow.

 

Paul: It’s really good. It’s so under the radar.

 

Melanie: Well, anything with John Cusack I’m going to watch, so… [Laughs.]

 

Paul: It’s great. And actually John Cusack plays him in his later years and Paul Dano plays him in his, uh, Pet Sounds era and they’re both fucking great.

 

Melanie: Wow, okay. Done and done. I’ll be seeing that.

 

Paul: Yeah, it’s great. I wish I could remember the name of it but just Google it and you’ll find it.

 

Melanie: I’m sure I’ll – I’ll just look up John Cusack! [Laughs.]

 

Paul: Here’s another love – I love pictures of the Beatles in the studio, either recording Rubber Soul or Revolver and you could see, by their clothes, and by their hair and knowing what the songs eventually sounded like that the world was changing – that that was the – just the moment that everything was changing.

 

Melanie: Yeah. I think I was like, 14 when I got to see Paul McCartney live, and he did “Live and Let Die” – oh my god, when he – when he hit the chord, like, you know, that’s, like one of the songs that gets, like, my heart thumping and I was so fucking jazzed to be there and watching him and they had like, you know, like, fireworks shooting up as soon as he – it was so amazing – it was such an awesome moment. Yeah.

 

Paul: Yeah. Give me another love.

 

Melanie: Um, I really like getting sand between my teeth when I go to the beach – a lot of people hate that, I love that sensation.

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: I love it. I love when I’m going home – I hate it on my skin, I hate that feeling, I’m like, ready to shower but I love when I feel the sand, like, crunch between my teeth – love that.

 

Paul: That’s interesting.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.]

 

Paul: That is an interesting one. Give me another one.

 

Melanie: Um, when a Beyoncé comes on somewhere and someone gasps with me in time because we’re both so immediately excited.

 

Paul: That’s a great one.

 

Melanie: That has happened several times to me!

 

Paul: Um, I love watching somebody awkwardly air guitar – that’s a good one. Where they’re just – there’s no self-consciousness to it, and they don’t care that they look stupid, and usually that the song they’re excited about is lame.

 

Melanie: Yeah, yeah. It’s the one guy – I like the one – “That Guy™”. TM.

 

Paul: Give me – give me 2 more.

 

Melanie: 2 more. Okay. Um, I really love going through a green light right before it turns yellow and glancing up through the windshield just in time to watch it turn yellow.

 

Paul: Oh, that’s a good one, too. You so have to write a book. Your eye for detail is incredible.

 

Melanie: Thank you! [Laughs.]

 

Paul: You would write a hell of a book. You have a great book inside you. You really do.

 

Melanie: Oh god. Thank you.

 

Paul: The rest of you is despicable but you have –

 

Melanie: Oh yeah, I know – soiled and horrible. Really.

 

Paul: Yeah, soiled. That’s the perfect word for it. Roont. You’re done roont.

 

Melanie: [Laughs.]

 

Paul: That one – that chestnut is getting a little worn out, where I cut the person down after complementing them, but it’s so –

 

Melanie: It’s worth it. I love it every time.

 

Paul: It’s a ball on a tee – that I set up myself, which is ironic, normally somebody else sets the ball on the tee for ya, but I walked up there to do it myself, and bring my bat. Um, I love the elegance and the thoughtfulness in a well-designed Apple product – I know that’s such a consumery thing to say, but –

 

Melanie: I love Apple. I’m not judging you.

 

Paul: - but yeah, there’s just – there’s just something that’s – to me, it’s almost like, um, like my favorite furniture is, uh, a lot of it is Danish mid-century modern, guys like Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner, the chairs that they made, uh – that it’s almost like a sculpture where they took away everything that was completely unnecessary and just left this form where every inch of it looks like it was crafted by a human being instead of a machine and it’s – it’s just, um – I mean, obviously Apple is made by machines but it’s just – the design of it seems to have that human touch –

 

Melanie: Yeah, something aesthetically beautiful about it – something aesthetically really pleasing.

 

Paul: And simple and elegant. Yeah.

 

Melanie: Wow. Um, this one has just a little story attached to it, but um, the connectedness to people and the world that I feel after sharing my story, and um, I have one memory of a girl after I gave, um, this – I gave a lecture about DID and you know, of course, I mentioned the abuse that I suffered and I leave the floor open for questions at the end, and I – I – people would stay after and like, hug me and just say really wonderful things and just some people would just share their own stories – there was one guy who stayed after and he was a grown black man and he told me that he was molested and when he came forward, no one believed him and it was just – it was – and like, we spoke for a long time, we hugged and it was so amazing – like, that’s the demographic that never speaks, that never, ever speaks up and it was so amazing that like, I came in, just told my story, and you know, that made him comfortable enough - but there was one time I walked out – I walked out of the classroom, I was done, I was with my 2 friends, and we were leaving and as I was turning the corner, I saw one of the girls from the class and she was on the phone crying, and saying something to her mother that, “We need to talk,” –

 

Paul: Wow.

 

Melanie: And as I walked – I got chills as I walked by and I was like, “I started a dialogue,” like, oh my god, just – like, even though it’s like, every time I do it, its like taking off my skin again, it’s like, when I feel that it’s like I moved the world forward just a little bit – I started a dialogue, there’s a conversation that’s going to happen today that’s going to make life a little less shitty.

 

Paul: That’s so beautiful. What a beautiful note to – to end on. Melanie, thank you so much. I just feel very grateful to have had you tell your story here on the podcast.

 

Melanie: Thank you so much – I am really grateful to have gotten to tell it.

 

Paul: And we’ll put your links up on the website.

 

Melanie: Sure.

 

Paul: Many, many thanks to uh, Melanie. Boy, I learned so much – I love when I have an episode like that. It’s one of the fears I have among the 8,000 roaming around my head every day is that this show will become, uh, repetitive – it’s one of the reasons I have the question on all the surveys, “Any suggestions to make the podcast better?” A lot of suggestions involving Herbert’s butthole, which brings me to the point, uh, Ivy has been feeling a little bit left out – we do have another dog, and her name is Ivy and I – I’m trying – I’ve been trying to describe what Ivy is like and I finally was watching a movie last night and I finally figured out the perfect way to sum up how Ivy looks and why her personality is. She is what a dog would be if Faye Dunaway became a dog – that answers everything. And Herbert is the same except it’s Ernest Borgnine. Let’s get to some surveys – oh, before I do that, I want to remind you that there’s a couple of different ways to support the show. If you feel so inclined, you can support us financially by going to the website, mentalpod.com and making uh, either a one time PayPal donation, or my favorite – becoming a monthly donor for as little as 5 bucks a month, and it means so, so much to the podcast, we could definitely use more donors. So, uh, it’s super simple to set up, you can also support us financially by shopping through our Amazon links – doesn’t cost you any more money when you buy anything and you can support us non-financially by giving us a good write-up and rating on iTunes and by spreading the word through social media about the podcast – all those things are greatly, greatly appreciated.

 

Let’s, uh, get to some surveys, huh? This one – this is a Struggle in a Sentence filled out by a guy who calls himself Apparently Anxious, and he has anxiety and depression and a snapshot from his life, he writes, “Telling myself that depression isn’t a valid excuse for failing to get my Master’s thesis done, because even though I might be spending 3 hours a day thinking about how broken I am and that I should kill myself, that still leaves 13 waking hours a day when I should be able to focus on working, right?” Boy, did you nail that. Oh my god did you nail the depressed brain – thank you for that. I never get tired of – when you guys sum up something just so succinctly, it just – it’s – it’s like a hot cup of cocoa to me.

 

This is a Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Fructose Corn, and I’m just going to read some excerpts from his – he’s straight and he’s in his 20s, he was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment, darkest thoughts, “I would never say I have shame about my thoughts. I learned from a very young age that if I didn’t learn how to make peace with my own mind, it would tear me apart and kill me wholesale without mercy, but of course I have demons like everyone else. I have had thoughts about killing people outright for the smallest acts of aggression, cutting me off in traffic, grilling me on the street, as well as I’ve had thoughts of raping women, drugging them and tying them up somewhere and just playing with them, forcing their bodies to betray them by having them enjoy it, then fucking them myself. I would never act on any of these, frankly, because they are completely insane, inhuman things to do in real life, but thoughts have come to me, less so these days, however. The urge to rape, not at all anymore. Having personally known women who were raped put that out of my mind forever.” Uh, darkest secrets, “I live at home and in the late hours of the night I went upstairs to grab 2 refrigerator paper clips – metal ones from the fridge. I took them downstairs and then grabbed elastic out of my dresser I had there just for these occasions. I put the metal paper clips onto my nipples, securely tied the elastic around my cock and balls, and proceeded to tie my own hands behind my back with a pair of kickboxing straps I had in my room. I then played – laid down on my bedsheets that I had arranged in front of my computer screen and humped my bedsheets, watched lesbian porn, jumping out of my binds just before I came.” I think that counts as a workout, and uh, thank you for sharing that. And then, sexual fantasies most powerful to you, he writes, “Honestly, I’ve gotten most of the weird, repressive bondage stuff out of my system. What really turns me on now is just appreciating the power of female sexuality and their bodies – intimate moments with a girl (I guess I should say women to be more correct) are what occupy most of my sexual fantasies now.” And then, uh, any suggestions to make the podcast better, “Do a 3 and a half hour episode in your DJ strip club voice.” [Laughs.] [In DJ strip club voice] Oh, comin’ up. Thursday rock in the quad cities. Now coming to the center stage, please welcome Krystal.

 

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by, uh, a woman who calls herself Not an Athlete, Just Sick. She writes, “I suffer with an eating disorder and related body issues. I am mainly a restricting anorexic who resorts to over-exercising as a means of controlling my weight when I give into the inevitable food binges. My awfulsome moment stems from having random people come up to me at the gym to complement me on my energy and ability to vigorously run one hour on the treadmill before taking on an equally grueling one-hour spin class before energetically finishing my workout with 30 laps around the gym’s indoor track, 7 days a week. Praising both my physique and ‘impressive stamina’, one particular lady asked me what the secret to my seemingly neverending energy was. She grabbed her gut and jerked it up and down, informing me how for years, she struggled to get rid of this stubborn belly fat to no avail. ‘I wish I’d looked like you,’ she told me. ‘You’ve really come a long way since you joined, you’re really nice and skinny now.’ I remember feeling overwhelmingly perplexed as I stuttered, ‘Thanks,’ as modestly as I could, feeling both happy and sad. The worst thing you can tell an anorexic with body issues is that she looks good now, because it only confirms that they looked like shit to begin with, so continuing with this vicious cycle is the only way to go. Anyway, she continued to praise my exercise routine and asked if there was anything I took pre-workout to give me that energy. I had to lie, and hide my irritation by saying that nothing more than a balanced breakfast and lunch is all the fuel I need. Haha. If they only knew I am possessed by my disease. Believe me, there’s nothing ‘awesome’ and ‘admirable’ about the ‘energy’ I have. This ‘energy’ is fuelled by a large dose of self-loathing, anorexia, and the demanding, overbearing drill-sergeant disguised as exercise bulimia. Oh, the irony. My disease is their admiration. If they only knew.” Thank you – thank you so much for that, that was, um – that was eloquent and really moving.

 

This is an e-mail I got from a guy who likes to be referred to as Tim the Enchanter, and uh, he wrote, um, “Since a bullying incident in fourth grade, I suffer from occasional homicidal thoughts. At times they manifest as graphic fantasies of murdering someone’s family and friends in front of them, usually involving knives or guns. These thoughts are directed at those who’ve wronged me throughout my life. My therapist wonders if it results from a power fantasy coming from my repressed anger. I’ve never acted on these thoughts. I’ve never hurt anyone in my life, in fact I have a great reputation of being polite and courteous to those around me, but I think those like me who suffer from intrusive homicidal thoughts feel a tremendous shame for thinking the way they do, and I’m afraid the stigma discourages those like me from seeking help. I’m afraid this stigma leads to sufferers carrying out these thoughts. Mental illness and its relationship to violence is an immensely provocative subject, namely because it contributes to this false perception that all mentally ill people are violent, but in denying that most violent people are mentally ill, I think we exclude them, often suffering from repressed anger and impulsive behavior, from being classified as being ‘mentally ill’ and getting the treatment they deserve. Violent acts are despicable and inhumane, but instead of just vilifying violent people and cramming them in jails, we’d all be better off finding them treatment. I know our society likes to label people as good or evil, but this black and white thinking dismisses the genetic and environmental factors that make us who we are.” And I wrote him back and I said, “Thank you so much for sharing that. You are far, far, far from alone in having those fantasies and should not feel shame about your thoughts and the fact that you haven’t acted on them is the biggest sign to me that they are just your brain’s way of coping with your life. I think the danger occurs when someone who is pathologic or severely narcissistic has them, because they lack the empathy that keeps them to just thoughts. You clearly don’t fit into that category and are someone who has empathy in the sense of right and wrong.” And then I shared with him some of the anger issues I’ve had playing hockey and picturing about, you know, imagining hurting people that hurt me et cetera, et cetera, and I said, “I think talking to your therapist about your past and what you’re feeling presently will be really helpful. I’m not a therapist, but that’s my 2 cents. And if someone has never had a homicidal urge in our modern society, I think they’re in a coma.”

 

This is, uh, a Shame and Secrets survey filled out by Lex, and uh, she’s bisexual, in her 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, I’m just going to read a couple of excerpts, her darkest thoughts – I wanted to do a kind of a theme here, I think you’ll probably be picking up on it by now – her darkest thoughts, “I think about punching everyone in the face and pounding on them with wild abandon. I think about blasting my head off in the middle of serious settings and wonder if anyone would laugh about it because it was so unexpected. Darkest secrets – I’ve never told anyone this before, but when I was a sophomore in high school, I overdosed on painkillers and muscle relaxers. I took them throughout the day in the hope that I would be kept in this steady stream of numbness. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, but it was going okay until it all caught up with me and I bolted out of my English class to throw up in a trashcan down the hall. I had an orchestra rehearsal after school that day, so I convinced my mom to let me stay at my friend’s place until then. I survived the bus ride there to spend what felt like hours throwing up in her cramped bathroom. I didn’t think my friend or her mom noticed but I don’t know how they didn't. I wasn’t exactly worried about hiding in that moment and I was dumb and 15. I sat on my friend’s bed and listened to her watch Everybody Loves Raymond in the front room, trying to decide if it was okay if I fell asleep or not. Then I went to rehearsal and got a wrong number text from some guy wanting to tell his buddy that he got into his Master’s program. One of the worst days of my life, and the best day of someone else’s. Life’s a trip.” That is profound, and I’m glad you survived. Uh, sexual fantasies most powerful to you, “I think about sex a lot, but the thought of me, this body and this spirit within as an active participant in sexual situations – hell, even kissing and holding hands, is something I really can’t comprehend. I picture this person who looks and sounds exactly like me, but isn’t me and is playing the character of me for this physically intimate fantasy. Maybe the real, powerful sexual fantasy is that one day, I might be trusting enough to let someone touch me like that – that someone would want to touch and love me like that.” Thank you. Thank you for sharing that, and you are not alone and um, what you described about kind of, um, picturing yourself, um, as somebody else or being outside of yourself, I read that a lot on these, uh, surveys. I wanted this batch of surveys, kind of – to kind of be a ‘me too’ because there’s stuff that relates, uh, through a lot of these. I’m hoping that those of you that filled these out are – are listening and realizing that, um, you’re not weird, you’re not broken, um, you’re – you’re not alone.

 

Um, this is filled out by KJ, and she is bisexual, in her 20s, raised in a stable and safe environment, darkest thoughts, “I originally left this area blank and I honestly wouldn’t consider this my darkest thought, but it’s a thought. My roommates and I regularly watch the television show Criminal Minds. I’m often surprised how much I can empathize and relate to the fucked up sociopath killer-type characters on the show, and it scares me how much I can relate to what they’re feeling and going through. Not necessarily that I want to murder people, but I understand the romantic idea of the satisfying release that hurting people can bring. Characters that those next to me see simply as fucked up and completely inhuman, I see myself in the most. That terrifies me.” To which I would say what I said to, um, the guy that e-mailed me, who’s name, um, I’m blanking – I think it was Justin, maybe – um, there’s a big difference between what you think and what you do and um, that’s – I love watching documentaries about serial killers and I identify with the compulsive nature that they have. I have no desire to kill people, or to be a serial killer, but I know what it’s like to have, uh, a compulsion that degrades my life. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you, “I often imagine that I am someone else having sex with me, both while masturbating or while with a partner. I put myself of the person fucking me instead of acknowledging that I’m the one being fucked. Fuck.” Again, you are not alone. You are not alone. And I love, too, when these – it’s not like I saved these surveys so that I could find, uh, a match – these all came, like, in the same batch filled within, you know, the same hours or days of each other, um, which to me is just such great proof that you guys are not alone.

 

This is a Struggle in a Sentence filled out by Matcha, and, uh, Matcha, uh, she writes about her depression, “I want to get up, but I don’t want to.” That’s so great. About her anxiety, “A point .001% chance of failure is still too risky.” And then a snapshot from her life, “I’m literally shaking while standing near the open door of my professor’s office. My hands are clutching this scrap of paper that I’ve written, what I’m going to say to him. It’s the third time I’ve tried to talk to him and this is the closest I’ve got. I can barely breathe. I try to force myself to step into the doorframe and show myself to him. I take a step, it’s in the opposite direction. I’m walking away, and deciding to e-mail him instead.” Wow, that is such a clear picture. That is such a clear picture. Thank you for that.

 

This is a Happy Moment by Pinetree and she writes, “I remember laying in the snow in the countryside and watching the sunset. The world was so quiet and peaceful and the colors were so warm. I felt I was floating in an ocean and that nothing could be wrong with the world. That was the last time I remember being truly happy with no strings pulling at me. It was at least 16 years ago.” Well, I’m sorry you haven’t – you haven’t gotten back to that place, um, but man, when we get those, they are so great and it’s so great to be able to file them away. I had one kind of similar to that, it was – it was probably in like, maybe 2001 – I had this urge to go, um, camping but in the winter in the mountains. There’s something about the – the barren kind of harsh environment that really has always appealed to me – kind of fighting the elements, you know? Huddling in the tent at night and the wind blowing and um – and I had just learned this – how to backcountry ski and you use these particular kind of skis that you put – you put this fur on the bottom of them – they’re almost like cat fur – that allows you to slide up but they keep you from sliding back, so you basically – and the heels are free, so you kind of slide your way up the mountain and when you get to the top of a mountain, you pull this adhesive fur off the bottom of the skis, lock your heels down and then you can ski, even though you’ve got a 50 or 60 pound backpack on, which makes you fall all the time, but anyway, um, it was physically one of the hardest things I had ever done, but the remoteness of it, and – and the, um – the difficulty of it, because it was a really – basically a 3-day thing of, uh – of just being in the winter and working your ass off going up and down these mountains and um, one day just as we finished, the sun was setting and I had that beautiful, physical exhaustion where the endorphins are starting to course through your veins and we had set, um – it was just me and a guide and we had found this little bowl, um, where we set our tents up and it was completely sheltered from the wind and it wasn’t really windy, but it was completely, completely still and when you are in, uh, the mountains, in the winter, and there’s no wind, uh, it can be perfectly silent and that’s what it was in that moment, and I got on my puffiest, warmest down booties and my puffiest, warmest down jacket and my puffiest, warmest down mittens and I just went to this snow bank that was just big and fluffy and I just stood and fell back into it and it was like I felt – it was like I fell into nature’s greatest beanbag chair and I remember feeling so relaxed and so accomplished at you know, having skied for 8 or 10 hours that day and – and the – and the snow was falling and it was so silent, the only thing that was making any noise was the tiny snowflakes falling on the rim of my jacket hood and it – it’s seared into my memory because I just remember thinking, “This is – this feels like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be and that there’s something bigger than me out there in the world and right now it’s giving me a hug.”

 

Hang on one second, um, this is a Struggle in a Sentence filled out by Forest Trees – oh, look at that serendipity – and about her depression, “Dysthymia and seasonal depression - it’s like carrying weight all over my body. Detached and separated from any choice I make and people around me.” About her anxiety, “A pressure at the base of my neck that spreads across my shoulders.” About being an abuser, “I’m emotionally abusive – a sudden valve release when I say something to hurt someone close and then an immediate collapse into guilt and sadness that makes me more angry at myself and makes a bigger hole I need to fill.” And about, uh, her anger issues, “I feel the most when I am angry. Makes me happy makes me angry because I know I am feeling and then I hate that about myself and spiral downwards.” Thank you for sharing that. I like it when you guys share about, um, when you are abusive, because I think a lot of people are too ashamed to talk about it.

 

This is filled out by Tough Girl, who writes about her depression, “A heavy wave that makes me want to sleep.” Oh my god, that is a perfect description. About her anxiety, “A feeling of dread that prevents me from sleeping.” That’s why the depression/anxiety combination is so maniacally perfect. You don’t want to face the world, but you can’t sleep. Uh, about her anger issues, “The inability to forgive.” Snapshot from her life, “I am stuck in a quicksand made from my failures, fears and obsessions and I don’t know how to get free. I want to better my life, not for me but for my children, but my progress is slow, and it is so, so hard but I take one day at a time and another day I get through I see as an achievement.” I think that’s a great attitude to have. Sometimes I have to break my day down into just 5-second chunks to not freak out.

 

This is an e-mail I got from a woman, uh, who wants to be referred to as Elle and um, she had e-mailed me earlier about being in a really depressed place and then, uh, she e-mailed me back, um, months later and writes, “I just read the original message I wrote and it feels like it came from a different person. I am by no means perfectly healthy now, but I definitely do not have vivid thoughts of suicide flashing through my head or any trouble imagining myself living to 75. Here’s what happened: I got off my birth control. It took months of everyone telling me I was crazy and that my depression couldn’t possibly be a result of perfectly safe birth control before I made an appointment to get it removed, but I did and it was miraculous. I cannot express to you the rapid shift in my mood, in my soul.” By the way, I’ve heard many times, um, listening to Loveline Dr. Drew talking about the fact that, um, birth control can trigger mood disorders in people so I don’t know who the fuck was telling you that there was no way it could be that – hopefully it wasn’t a medical professional. Anyway, “On the way back home from my doctor, I caught myself looking at the clouds and admiring the flowers. By the following morning I legitimately felt like I was on drugs – this is not an exaggeration.” I think she means in a good way, “The colors looked brighter, the sounds were fuller, I was smiling like an idiot and skipping down the road. I stopped in my tracks a few times, because I was so blown away by the sheer happiness. I have never experienced anything like it. I cried when I saw my paints, because for the first time in months, I actually wanted to use them. No one told me about this – no one warned me that hormonal birth control could fuck with you this badly.” Thank you for sharing that. Uh, and she says, “More women should know about this. By all means use birth control, it’s unlikely you will be the outlier, but if you are very depressed and are on birth control or recently switched, people should, at the very least, advise going off the BC and seeing what happens.” Thank you for that.

 

Uh, this is a Struggle in a Sentence filled out by Ice Cold Enemena? I think I’m pronouncing that right - and about his depression, he writes, “Remembering the things that used to bring me joy and knowing that the ability to enjoy them is still in me somewhere, but I can’t access it so it’s like having my assets frozen while I starve to death.” Wow, I so relate to that one, not necessarily to the intensity of it, but yeah. Thank you. Snapshot from his life, “As at work on a scrapbook for the first year anniversary for my girlfriend, I feel my energy slowing fading and eventually the only thing that makes sense is letting myself falling on the bed – letting myself fall - ” I think he meant ‘fall’, “ - onto the bed where I remain the rest of the day, occasionally feeling a deep frustration for not being able to power through the overwhelming lethargy and anhedonia.” Relate to that.

 

This is filled out by Amanda Grace, who writes about her social anxiety, “Constantly trying to remind myself that I don’t really hate other people, I hate that when I’m around them, particularly 1-on-1 I feel compelled to entertain them. If I’m not talking enough, there’s something wrong with me and they are going to hate me.” To which I would say, that is what happens when we operate from a place of fear and insecurity, because that – people that, at least in my experience, that talk a shitload – I would rather have somebody that’s comfortable with silence. I have never said, “Oh my god, I don’t want to go hang around that person that is comfortable with silence. I hate that person.” But I have said, “Ugh, I don’t know if I have the energy to be around that person that talks non-stop.” So, what I’m saying is, I cast you to hell. No, but that’s what happens when I operate out of my fears – when I try to be – when I try to not be something, I’m usually not being my authentic self, because I’m trying – instead of just letting my authentic self come through, I’m operating from a place of ‘I’m not enough’ and so here I need to be this other version of myself so you’ll love me.

 

Um, Violet writes about, uh – and Violet is genderfluid and they write about, uh, living with an abuser, “Not being able to take a shower with my mother home because she has peeped on me and hurt my genitals in the bath as a child.” I’m so sorry you experienced that, um, and if you want to know of a, uh, group for people who have been, um, uh, violated by their mothers, uh, e-mail me, mentalpod@gmail.com. Snapshot from their life, “Numbing myself through food so I can smile with an abuser that criticizes my weight.” Oh man. I hope you can get out of that house. Sending you some love.

 

This was – this was filled out by I’m Electraheart, and she writes about her love addiction, um – actually she writes about her ADD, “I don’t always feel okay enough to get out of bed and do something but when I do, my ADD wants to clean my room, call my friends, read a book, get a haircut, write a poem, cook a healthy meal, listen to your podcast, go for a run, adopt a cat, at one and the same time eventually forcing me back into bed.” [Laughs.] That was like a little poem. About her love addiction, she writes, “I don’t care about you at all. Your personality bores the shit out of me and your looks leave me wondering how disgusting your orgasm face would be, but please, please, please – I can’t and won’t leave until you deeply fall in love with me so that I can feel okay enough about myself and walk away empowered to find my next victim/victimizer.” Wow. Wow. [Laughs.] That is so honest. What if we had to have our orgasm faces on our driver’s licenses? [Laughs.] Nobody would speed, I’ll tell you that much! Uh, some – I bet some – somewhere, some comedian has done a bit about that. If they haven’t, somebody should.

 

Um, this was filled out by Chatterbox, and she writes, about her dermatillomania, “If I salt my skin, it will be perfect and cleansed, therefore I will be without flaw and cleansed.” There is a, uh – I believe there’s a thread in the forum for trichotillomania and dermatillomania.

 

This is filled out by a woman who calls herself Hands Off, and she has haphephobia, uh, I think I’m pronouncing it right – haphephobia, which is fear of being touched, and she writes, “At least once a day it occurs to me that my life expectancy is shorter than average because of my aversion to being touched. Being touched makes me so distressed and angry that I would rather die than let people touch me. If I were in a medical emergency, I would refuse treatment because I can’t live with people touching me. Having to go on knowing all these strangers had their hands all over me would make me suicidal and unable to function. My quality of life would be so poor it wouldn’t be worth living. I still get angry when I think about times people touched me months or years ago. When people touch me I feel violent towards them – the rage is so overwhelming and intense that words just do not do it justice. No one seems to understand what it’s like to live this way and therapy has not helped at all. I have tried several therapists.” Oh, I’m so, so sorry that you have to, um, live with this, it sounds so overwhelming and um, sending you – well, I can’t send you a hug, and I’m not trying to be – that wasn’t meant to be mocking. Sending you some empathy and some love.

 

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by a guy who calls himself Squid Pro Quo and he writes, um, “I went,” – he’s 28 – he writes, “I went out for drinks with a friend on a Saturday night and we talked about many things, including our respective love lives. I told her how I wasn’t quite ready to seriously date anyone but I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was single and finally more or less mentally healthy. Ever since I was hit on by an attractive couple on a train, but was too self-defeating and oblivious to recognize it, I’ve had a passing interest in hooking up with married couples. I put up a few ads on Craigslist and went on a few dates but nothing really worked out. My friend encouraged me to repost my ad in M4MW and see what happens.” I’m not sure what M4MW means but I’m sure I’ll get e-mails. “Her logic was that even if it’s not an amazing sexual experience it could at least give me a good story to tell. This is that story. I posted my ad at noon on Sunday and got a response 2 hours later from a woman named Gillian (fake names). She was a doctor and recently divorced. Gillian and her girlfriend had been discussing finding some men to bring into the bedroom. They are both bisexual but only date women and miss having experiences with men. They wanted to set something up for 7 o’clock that same night. I was intrigued so I replied with my picture and phone number. I concluded that I would never hear from them by the time I finally got a call at 6:30. It was Gillian – she had shared my post with her girlfriend and they were both interested. She talked like she had done this sort of thing before. We discussed our experiences, interests, fantasies, boundaries, disease status and what we imagined would happen that night. Gillian had an obsession with ‘pheromones’, which really just meant body odor and with the idea of catching two men in the act. She wanted to enact a role-play scene where she, her girlfriend, and a third friend named Sasha would come home to find a trail of clothing, leading to her ‘husband in bed with another man’. She asked me what kind of men I liked and searched Craigslist to find a suitable man to round out her elaborate sexual dream team. She came up with Phil, who was 50, bi, and a musician and massage therapist. She got Phil on a conference call, we traded stories, did some preliminary role-playing and made plans to meet at his place, because it was only 2 miles away, I was going to run there to help satisfy Gillian’s body odor fetish. After an hour of Phil and I trading massages and other things, the 3 women were to arrive, uh, and we would proceed from there. I was a little skeptical of the plan – I’m not really into men by themselves and 50 is near the upper range of who I want to meet - I’m only 28 - but I remembered what my friend said about having a good story to tell, so I put on my running clothes and headed to my first orgy. I arrived at the address he gave me, but I assumed it was a mistake. As I stood in the apartment parking lot, a gray-haired man with a walker entered the building, assisted by his middle-aged son. I was at a retirement village. As naïve and trusting as I was, I assumed that Phil must be a live-in massage therapist. I called him and he came to meet me at the door. Of course, he wasn’t 50 he was closer to 70. We entered the lobby where he said hello to his white-haired neighbor and offered to carry her Easter lily upstairs for her. I should have left right away, but there were 4 other people counting on me being there and I didn’t want to disappoint. If it isn’t obvious, I sometimes have trouble saying no and advocating for my own needs but I was already in too deep to give up so suddenly. As previously determined, Phil and I stripped down and traded massages. I couldn’t get into it, so I tried to detach and go through the motions. It took at least an hour before I could tolerate being touched sexually. When I realized that an hour and a half had gone by with no sign of the women, I sent Gillian a text. I got nothing in return and figured the whole situation was an elaborate trolling. If so, I was impressed with how thorough she was. I decided to cut my losses and give Phil a blow job – my first one ever.” Can we just drink in that sentence? “I decided to cut my losses and give Phil a blow job – my first one ever - so I could leave without disappointing him. I ran back home with the gross taste of spit and come in my mouth. Shortly after I got back, I finally got a call from Gillian. She was offended that I would even suggest she was trolling me. I didn’t believe her story at first, but slowly came to realize that she was sincere. It turns out that Sasha, the friend Gillian wanted to bring along was actually another person who was randomly found on Craigslist. Sasha was also a drug dealer. When Sasha left home, she was trailed by police all the way to Gillian’s place. Sasha went in with her supply of drugs and the police entered shortly after. The police separated 3 women – the 3 women into separate rooms and they interrogated them for 2 hours. Gillian and her girlfriend were able to convince the officers what they were up to with my e-mails to corroborate their story. Sasha was arrested and led away, and that’s why my first orgy never materialized. I now understand why people should always meet in public first.” [Laughs.]

 

I probably should have ended on that one, but I want to read this one. I want to end on this one. This is a Happy Moment filled out by a woman who calls herself Baby Girl and she writes, “I work 1-on-1 with young adults who have intellectual disabilities. It’s a really emotionally draining job, especially for someone who is in a depressive state. One of the kids I work with comes from a pretty chaotic environment and has a really sarcastic and tough attitude. Today he told me that he doesn't want to age out of the program because he wants to keep working with me. I told him he would eventually have to age out, and he said, ‘Maybe I could just switch to the adult program’ so I could keep working with him. It made me so happy to hear such a small thing. It made me feel like the work I was doing was worth it even if it’s hard. Even if some days I feel like I'm too depressed to get out of the bed, I may be the one bright spot in this kid’s day and that’s enough to make my day.”

That is just so awesome and beautiful and I just want to give a high five to the mental health workers out there who are on the frontlines - the counselors, the therapists, the social workers, the psychiatrists – I know I’m probably leaving people – people out, teachers, paramedics, hot dog vendors – you guys have no idea how intense it can get around a hot dog. [Laughs.] I want to go back and edit that out but I’m too tired and Herbert’s butthole awaits – he’s across the floor right now staring at me. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this – this episode and I’m so glad to be on this, um – this road with you guys and thanks for reminding that I’m not alone with your awesome surveys and I hope you remember that you’re not alone and thanks for listening.