Episode 35: Karma (Voted #8 Ep of 2011)
How do you cope when you are convinced your life is constantly in danger as a child? First, you band together with your siblings and form an army, then you learn about the sweet oblivion of addiciton. Paul’s friend Karma witholds her last name and picture so she can fully reveal the family life that nearly killed her, but ultimately forced her to grow. A fairly heavy interview so Paul throws in a little something after the interview to hopefully make you laugh.
Paul: Welcome to episode 35, with my guest, Karma. I’m Paul Gilmartin, this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads. From medically diagnosed conditions, to everyday compulsive negative thinking. Feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy, and that vague sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour; we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky. But first a few notes.
The website for this, uh, podcast is mentalpod.com. That's also the twitter name that you can follow me at. And it’s my Skype name, uh, if you want to leave a message a, a question, a comment, a fear, a Christmas memory, that might be nice to put some of those together ,uh, that Skype number is uh 818-574-7177, uh, or use the Skype name if you’re a Skype user, contact me through me the Skype name, uh, mentalpod.
Uh, pretty exited this week a lot of uh bustling of activity at, uh, the forum for this show. It’s really cool seeing people connect to each other and uh exchange information, make each other laugh, uh give each other comfort its really cool, so I encourage you to go check out the forum and also, uh, fill out the survey, both of those things you can access through the website mentalpod.
Uh, You’ll notice that my guest for today doesn’t have a last name, and the guest is not the entity Karma, it’s a friend of mine and her name is Karma, and she just thought she would be more comfortable being on the podcast and doing it kind of anonymously, uh, because, uh, she talks about her family and, uh, some of it is not very flattering, and so I encourage guests sometimes to leave out their last name and not have their picture on the website. But, um, I think it’s a really great interview. It’s a little on the dark side but, um, you know, ultimately it’s an uplifting interview, I feel.
But I thought, you know, this is the thanksgiving and the holidays and all that stuff coming up, so I thought you guys might also, I don’t know, need to laugh a little bit more, so I tacked a little something on at the end after the interview with Karma.
One of the cool things about doing this show is that I’m getting turned on to a lot of authors that I probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, uh, from listeners that send me emails. And an author whose name keeps coming up over and over is Pema Chödrön and I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that name correctly. It’s got a lot of those crazy German, uh, umlauts over her last name. It’s C,H,O and there is a little crazy thing over the O - D, R,O -and another crazy thing over the O. It either means that she’s really spiritual or she’s a double Nazi. I don’t know. I’m going to say that she’s pretty, pretty spiritual.
But , uh, I ordered this book called When Things Fall Apart. And, uh, cause I’m at this place, um, where Intellectually I know I’m going to be ok… um, but there’s still this nagging feeling in me that, I’m kind of fucked or I’ve made a wrong decision, that I’m in the wrong place, that I shouldn’t be unemployed. Um, and I know a lot of people can probably relate to that. And what Pema Chödrön says “approach fear with a relaxed curiously”, and so I encourage you a to join me if your unemployed and just take a deep breath and say ‘hmm… I wonder how the fuck I’m going to survive’.
Paul: I’m here with my, uh, my friend Karma and we’re going to withhold her, her last name and her, uh, and her, uh…picture so she can speak a little more freely about the, the stuff that’s, that’s happened in her life. Um… I’m so glad that you agreed to come do this because, uh, you’re an important person in, in my life even though I’ve only known you for, what? I guess two years. Um… you are somebody who I admire and whose, uh, strength I feed off, and you have this crazy, crazy history, that to me is such great example of that if we just keep moving our feet forward things, things, get better. So let’s start from the very beginning. Uh… Where were you born?
K: I was born right here in uh, the San Fernando Valley uh… in, uh, California. I actually, um... this is kind of interesting; I live in the house I was born in. Uh, I live in the house I was born in. And um, some people think that’s kind of crazy, but I interestingly enough feel very safe there now.
K: Yeah. I do, I do. I feel very safe there. Lot of uh…crazy memories, but I’ve made it a really good place for myself and those memories don’t haunt me they really don’t. Um… and I think it’s just because I know all the nuisances and I’m, I’m um, really in a good place there, and it makes me feel really calm there, because all of that has changed her for me. So it’s a good place.
. And I have great memories there too, I’ve really good memories, I have great memories there too. That’s part of the dichotomy—
P: I never knew that. I suppose every family there’s some good with the bad, um.. or I should say most families cause there’s some families were there was just [laughs] unremitting sadness and, uh, despair, but—
K : Yeah…yeah that’s I think what’s makes it such a difficult thing, is that there was so much good and so much bad. I think that’s what makes part of my story so unbelievable to the people who knew me in my life. It’s cause there was so much good, as well. Uh… That’s why people didn’t know what was going on.
PG: Oh really? I suppose so, yeah, ‘cause it’s like you’ll hear these stories about the mayor of the town that everybody loves and, you know, he’s this great guy and then you find out this dark awful secret.
K: That’s exacely what was going on, cause we had a great family, we do have a great family. But we have a lot of darkness and a lot of, what I believe is believe, is masked in our, uh… cultural background as well and um—
P: And what cultural background would that be?
K: I’m Indian and my family is from the West Indies. And I believe there is a lot of addiction and oppression and abuse, in uh… masked in that. And when you live in America, and I was born here in America, it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work. And uh —
PG: ‘Why you so sad? You want some more macaroni salad hon?’ [said in loud voice with funny accent]
PG: Uh, excuse me for being ignorant about the West Indies, how is the West Indies, um… related to the country of India?
K: Um… Indians from India were brought to the West Indies by the British to work, um…, the sugar plantations, the rice plantations, things like that. And from there we ended up in England and in America. And um…, so I’m first generation born here.
PG: Ok. Uh…, it wasn’t a forced labor? Was it? It was a forced labor. Of course it was.
K: Of course it was. Part of my family was brought over… came over to the West Indies by choice and part of my family was not. So yes, there was like some of that indentured servant type stuff that happens. It’s fascinating. It’s fascinating. Um… it’s very, it’s just an interesting history I think. Um… And just how my family mixed; my mom’s side of my family was well educated and wealthy, I hope my family never hears this story, my dad’s side of my family was not, not as. And, um…, my parents actually married here in this country. And there were parts of the family that didn’t think the two should have mixed. Um —
PG: Were both your parents West Indian?
K: Um.. hmm… Both of them from the same country. Yeah…and umm… yeah, and it just didn’t work well.
My dad…the things my father did were horrible and wrong. There’s no way to get around that. I’m not making excuses. But, I look at the pressure he was under, umm… , to deliver for his family, the person they needed him to be, and I understand why he did the things he did, why he had the persona that he has. And again it’s not right, it’s not right. But I don’t think he knew any better, and that he didn’t have to be that person. He came from a big family and they expected a lot out of him and he came to this country to help, to help his family, as a lot of people are. And with that comes a lot of pressure, a lot of ego, a lot of power and he’s an alcoholic, and he’s a rageaholic and he’s a sex addict and he’s a lot of things.
PG: Is the West Indian culture, uh… kind of machismo?
K: Very, very.
PG: Uh…there are so few cultures that aren’t… male machismo. Male machismo as opposed to female machismo [both laugh].
K: Right, right and I…, and there’s a lot of that oppression that happens when you come from a place like that. And I wasn’t… I didn’t get that. I’m not one of those, umm.., sweet little girls who has the high pitched voice [says that in high pitched voice] and I’m… you know…I’m just wasn’t one of those. And that didn’t work for me, and that got me into a lot of trouble.
PG: So you’ve always been, uh… kind of strong and unafraid of confrontation?
K: I was a lot sweeter [laughs] when I was younger. I wasn’t as, um…, I guess, brash, but having to defend myself and having to … and having witnessed what I’ve witnessed in my life, got me a lot more brash and harsh, I think. But I did have a strong personality, I’ve always, I think, had a stronger personality.
Paul: You, you, you, don’t strike me as, uhh…, as brash. You strike me as having just the right amount of, uh… telling–it-like-it-is without the excess of I-want -to make-this -person -I’m confronting–look-bad, and I’m very envious of it. Uh.. But I want to start from… let’s start from the… let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way. The stuff that… fucked you up, for a while.
K: emm… ok, [laughs] the stuff that fucked me up. OK. Umm…Uh… yeah… I did. I grew up in a very violent home. And I grew up in a very um… —
PG: What types of violence? Give me some examples.
K: There was a lot of physical violence. My parents believed… in um…, not spanking, the discipline in my house was beating, and severe beating and beating to the point of injury. And um…
PG: Both your parents?
K: Both my parents and it was frequent in my opinion. And it was—
PG: How many brothers and sisters?
K: I’ve one sister and one brother. And we got beat for a lot of things and for anything. And again that was cultural. And, um... We got beat in front of people, we got beat, you know, when no one was there. And then it was part of conversation [laughs]
PG: How do you mean?
K: You know, if one of us got beat for something we did wrong, and we were at a family gathering, it got talked about. It wasn’t something that was private in our family. Um… And, um… you know, I would go to school—
PG: Talked about among other relatives, or within your family?
K: Yes, among other relatives.
PG: So... and that was because it was kind of culturally accepted—
PG: Everybody was doing that, that's how everybody disciplined their kids, so there was nothing to be ashamed of.
K: Our family did it a little worse. Um… We spent… uh... Most of my dad's family still lived in the country that were from, so, ah, we spent a lot of time around my mom's family who did not discipline in that way. But the conversation still happened, even though they did not discipline that way, and they never said 'oh, you shouldn't do that' etc. My dad’s family did discipline in that way and so the conversation would have happened anyways, Um I remember a time when my brother was being disciplined and I kind of yelled out 'Isn’t somebody going to save him?' and they all just told me to be quiet [laughs]. Because…
Karma: You know, you're just going to get it, you're gonna get it now. Um… and ah… so there was iconcert violence there was a lot of violence it was called discipline. My dad also used to beat my mother. And… so I grow up… we used to have to lay over my mother to…, cause he wasn't trying to h… when he wasn't disciplining us and he was beating my mother, he wasn't… he wouldn't hit us. If the target was my mother, the target was my mother, but we’d lay over her to try to protect her and um… so I grow up doing that, and because he worked nights a lot of that violence happened in the middle of the night. So, you know, being woken up out of our sleep up very young, and… running out of our beds trying to protect my mother, and having to escape our home, um…
PG: With your mom?
K: With my mom, trying to run away from him.
PG: While your dad was in the house or while he was at work?
K: No, while he was as at home beating her. —
PG: Oh my God…
K: Cause she wasn't… she wouldn't… she didn't leave… she wouldn't leave him. So it was just at the moment… in the moment, trying to escape sometimes. And, that was always very difficult, umm… very scary. And I always thought he was going to kill her.
As a child I didn’t know that line between when that violence was going to kill somebody or not.
There were times th… that my sister may have been doing something wrong. Let's say she was being bad for a week, apparently she had done too many things wrong in a week, so my dad would keep her home from school and beat her. And give her water and then beat her and giver her water with like construction electrical cords. So, then my mom would take us to school and I would think, 'well now she's been left alone with him he's going to kill her'. And then I would be going to the library to return a book and I'd see her at school, and I would be amazed that she was alive.
PG: Oh my God…
K: So it was thing like that. I always thought, like, oh my…, I always thought that my family members were going to be dead. I just didn't know the line. And I just thought they were going to die. I —
PG: What kind of terror did that instill in a little kid?
K: [laughs] A lot. And so in my life I didn't really, I didn't really mature very well, because I just never knew. I always thought that we were going to die. And I was always very afraid of people. I couldn’t walk down the street; I couldn't walk through school without being afraid of people, because, also as a child in in my culture anybody could discipline you.
PG: Oh my God…
K: And not that anybody did, not that other people did.
PG: But just knowing the possibility that this violence could come from anywhere, anybody, at any time.
K: Right, so I was always afraid of everybody. I was just afraid of everybody.
Also I was sexually abused starting at around three or five. So I was just afraid of people.
PG: by, by?
K: By family members and things like that, so…, and people outside of my family
PG: How many different people?
K: Well by the time I was ten it was probably like three or five people.
PG: And how many incidents would you say there, there were?
K: I'm not quite sure because I was so young. But also by the time I was 10, just to give you a visual picture; I was five-five and had a fully developed body. So… and we had a large extended family, lots of parties, lots of gatherings, my father played cricket, always at the cricket field, lots of people.
Um… my parents never left us with babysitters or people like that, but there were always lot of people, so lots of exposure.
And um… just a lot happened; lots, lots of things were going on. And, um…so I was just afraid of people.
PG: D…did you know what was happening to you was wrong and that you weren't to blame for any of it?
K: No. And things like, here's an example, I think I was around, between 10 and 13 we were, there was a party at my house. And… um… one of our family friends', uh, brother came from Jamaica, he was in the Jamaican parliament and he came to a party at our house. And… also, in my culture, as a child you have to kiss everybody hello, so I had to kiss this man hello, now mind you I have an adult body but I'm still a child in my head, had to kiss this man hello. And… He was touching me so I went outside in the front yard of my house, but I'm not allowed, I wasn't allowed to do that.
My mom found me out there and made me come back in. So, then I went into the kitchen where she was. But she wouldn't let me in there because she was cooking all this food. So I didn't have, I was trying to find a safe place, but I couldn't find a safe place. And then he took me into my bedroom. Well my mom didn't see any of this because she was busy, but I was trying to stay with her, but she kept me pushing, you know like, there was just no place for, for me to be.
PG: And so did he abuse you?
K: Yeah he did, in my own home, in my own bedroom.
PG: With your parents?
K: With my parents there.
PG: Ah [sigh] … That is so… jaw dropping.
K: Yeah, yeah. And then —
PG: Not only in its cruelty but its sense of entitlement on that guys part.
K: Well that was the other thing, that was the other thing. And then, maybe f…, let's see, 13, 20, and then when I was in my twenties I had gained a bunch of weight, I saw him in another family party, he had come back into the country.
I'd gained a bunch of weight and he didn't recognize me.
He ac… he didn't even know who I was. And he just passed me by, as if I had, like…
PG: Did you want to say something to him?
K: No! But he didn't even recognize me. You know, it was just like, I was not the one to be abused now because I had gained a bunch of weight and I was not his pleasure anymore.
PG: Yeah. Do you remember how that, how that made you, uh…, feel?
K: Well one - I felt like fewww, you know, thank god… but two - it was just like 'oh, that's interesting'
PG: I'm just a thing to this guy.
K: Yes. Yes.
PG: I'm disposable.
K: Yeah. And it just, this kind of stuff, it's just, it's just so disg.., it's so, it's so, um… demoralizing.
PG: Yeah. It sounded like you were about to say uh… disgusting, and then you stopped—
K: It is [laughs]
PG: and then you stopped yourself, as if…
K: It's disgusting.
K: It's disgusting.
K: It's disgusting. I went to a therapist, um, my brother and sister are, um, drug addicts, pretty bad drug addicts, and I, uh, went to, I had put my brother in a treatment center and I was going to a therapist on the family's side, and started talking about my own stuff and he at one point asked me 'How many times have you been raped?' and that was an odd question that he asked me. And I didn't know how to answer that 'cause I started to count on my fingers and I could see the look on his face.
PG: Oh my God…
K: And how… He was an ex-police officer who turned turned therapist. And when I saw the look on his face I couldn't… count, because he was st…because of the fact that I was counting he was got so upset.
PG: You didn't want him to get too upset?
K: I just couldn't cou…like I just couldn't do it, because I could see that he… I registered in myself how upset it made him.
PG: And you didn't want to upset him or you didn't want to face the enormity of…?
K: I started to see that it was such a horrible thing. I did not realize that abuse, violence and all those things were horrible because in my family you didn't talk about it.
It was either an Easter, when I was about 15, it was, I can't remember if it was Easter or my birthday where I went, behind my house there was a park, and I went jogging back there and I got gang raped.
PG: Oh my God…
K: And I jumped back over the fence, took a shower and showed up for an Easter gathering or my birthday, I can't remember which one it was, my brother and I had the same birthday.
PG: Are you kidding me?
K: Yeah. And it was just my life, that was my life. I didn't tell anybody, I didn't do anything about, I mean, 'cause you couldn't, we never spoke of these things.
PG: How do you compartmentalize? I suppose you do because otherwise you, you…
K: I just did 'cause that's how my life was.
P: You have to, you have to. I suppose you don't have a choice.
K: That's how my life — I lived my life that way my whole life. Because my f… I started my life with my father being violent. And we never talked about it. You just didn't.
PG: But the thing that we find out is, you can compartmentalize it, but it's like ahh, you know, like one of those bumps on somebody's head in a cartoon, it's gonna come out.
K: It does.
PG: Either through the way you deal with the world, or how you treat yourself or both.
PG: So how did it, how did this, you, internalizing all this terrible pain how did it begin to manifest itself?
K: Well as a young adult depression, um, started to overcome me. I became suicidal. I used to be a pretty intelligent like, I used to be a pre-med student. And um [Sigh], this is where it starts to touch me [voice breaks] I used to be like the fast track girl in my family I was gonna go somewhere, and I was gonna save my family. But, um, I used to —so I was headed somewhere in my life, and I thought that I was, um, gonna get out of all of this. And um… depression and addiction overcame me. I didn't know about any, about, about depression or addiction or any of these kinds of things because we didn't do therapy, we didn't talk about therapy; this was not about my family
And, um, finally my parents, uhh, my mom finally hit my dad back [laughs] when I was 18.
PG: Were you there?
K: I was there.
PG: What was that like?
K: Um, My dad was gonna actually beat my brother up and something happened in my mom and she hit my dad. And —
PG: Like struck him in the face?
K: Hit him with a pot top and broke his head open. And now we knew my mom, my mom's life was gonna end. So we had to, um, we had to get out of there. And she had jumped over a fence that she couldn't get back over. Um, but as kids, so this is the interesting part, we had learned to fight for our lives. And we had learned what to do. So my brother had already moved into action with the car, and I had to carry her over a fence. And… cause she wouldn't, she couldn't jump over. She, my mom could never fight for her life, she just couldn't do it, and, she couldn't do what it took to save herself, even to leave. So, um, I had to carry her over a fence. And my brother had already done whatever he needed— and we got away. My sister was, uh, out of the country at the time, and we hid her, we were able to hide her.
And we snuck back and got cars, the rest of the car, our cars, and, um, we were able to successfully hide for a couple of days. And interestingly enough we hid at my dad's best friend's house which was the only person on this face of the earth that could succumb my dad down, the only person. And we hid there for, you know, enough time and, um, and that's when things changed, that's when things changed, but then —
PG: For the better or for the worse?
K: Well for the better but then what happened was, my siblings and I our addictions started to come out. And within a few years, within a few years, we went crazy, 'cause now nobody was holding us down. Once I, um, sort of learned to not to take care of my brother and sister.
I hit a bottom of my own, um, addiction, I took care of myself. And now, um, through the help that I've been able to get I've been able to move forward, and um…change my life. I've been able to totally change my life.
I tried to kill myself twice and for some reason —you know I thought even God hated me and didn't want to take me [laughs].
K: Like nothing worked in my life, but now I've been able to, to, you know, my whole life has changed. I don't want to kill myself.
PG: Let's, let's go, before we, before we can get to that stuff, you know, I was struck when you were talking about your family. You know your brothers and sisters like knowing what role they had to play in rescuing you mom, and you know, one went to get the car, and you brought her over the fence. It's like war, you guys are an army.
K: We did, I mean my siblings and I have a connection. No matter, I mean we have problems with each other; but there's a connection the three of us have that we will always have, because we've had to pull together in that way.
PG: Wow! That must be so deep that feeling that nobody else has any idea…
K: Well, yes and interestingly enough, um, because, my sister doesn't really have any, she hasn't really gotten, um, what she's needed in her life; she has recently been attacked by a stalker. And, in conversations that she and I have had, um, she's been able to say to me 'Karma you know what I'm talking about', 'we know how to fight for our lives.' She was able to save her life. There was another person there who didn't fight. She was able to say to me 'I was the one fighting; we know how to this Karma and no one else understands this but you and I'.
PG: What happened to the other person?
K: He didn't, he's OK, but he wasn't fighting, because he hadn't been through it before.
PG: He didn't, he hadn't been through boot camp, he hadn't been through boot camp.
K: Right. Right. He didn't have to fight for his life. So he didn't know what, he hadn't had that experience. It's an innate for us. It's just innate for us. We don't have to think to about it, it just happens. Because, it's what we've always done since we were very little.
PG: Can you describe what that's like when that—, is it like a switch getting flipped on?
K: Yes. Its, I mean cause she was asleep, she was asleep when it happened and she was attacked by a man with knives.
PG: He had a knife?
K: He had knives. He had two knives. He had two knives.
PG: And this was guy that she was dating with, or living with, or what?
K: This was a guy that she's known for a long time. He was recently living in her house. He wasn't living there anymore, he started stalking her. She had a restraining order out on him. Um, it's unclear right now why he came back to want to kill her but he did.
And um, he came back with two knives in the middle of the night, and just went crazy.
PG: and she got stabbed, but —
K: And she got stabbed, more than once.
PG: but fought and lived.
K: Yeah, and she's alive. She spent some time in the hospital; she had to have some surgery. I don't know the extent of everything 'cause she really hasn't been able to articulate very well everything.
PG: And she has never sought help all the stuff she's been through?
K: She has not… She's um… Nobody else in my family has been able to um, really get help for all the dysfunctionalism that's gone on in my family.
PG: Except you.
K: Except me. I'm the only one that's been able to do that.
PG: Do you think that there is, when somebody is untreated, do you think that there is a s.., cause I've heard psychologists speculate on this before and it kind of makes sense to me, when you're untreated that you give of a kind of a vibe that attracts the people that had victimized you in the first place, that you tend to, almost like give of a pheromone that people can from across the room say , 'oh I can manipulate that person' or ' 'I can, I can um…'
K: When you're untreated?
PG: Yes, when you're untreated. Um, For instance, I heard somebody say one time, that they were talking about a girl who had been molested a child and that she can go to a party and a predator will be able to spot her, not knowing her, but spot her vibe from across the room and have a sense that 'here's somebody I can control'.
K: Without a doubt in my mind that's my whole life, that's exactly how I lived. And that —I didn't know that for most of my life but that's exactly my life, because every predator found me, every predator found me. Exactly.
PG: Do you, do you have any idea what it was that you were giving of, that they….
K: It's just the energy of the victim. And you don't know that until you start to get help. But it's literally the energy of the victim.
PG: I think there's something in the eyes. When, when somebody — And maybe this is obvious, but to me, just the way, without somebody even speaking sometimes, just the way they move their eye, just, they move their eyes, the way they avoid or engage in eye contact there's a f… . It's like they —their letting you know how they feel about themselves and whether or not they feel they have any rights or any power.
K: Well, absolutely. I believe that. I mean just, just that statement that you made. I mean, I definitely think, people have always said they can look at me, look at my eyes and know exactly what's going on with me. And that's how I've always felt. I don't have any power, I don't have any rights and I am nobody
PG: This is obviously before I met you. Because…
PG: Because you have such confident eye contact. Even in the midst of a —, I don't know if drama is too strong of a word, but uh, a disagreement between people, or somebody having to discuss something that isn't quite comfortable. I just, I like over at you and you're just like….
K: But, if you saw me in front of somebody I was afraid of —
K: You wouldn't see that.
K: No, you wouldn't see that.
PG: And does that happen to this day were you be —,
PG: regress to that role?
K: Absolutely, absolutely.
PG: Really? What does, what does that feel like?
K: It's very scary but it doesn't really happen that much anymore. I mean, I don't, I'm not in that space anymore. I've, I don't attract that anymore.
PG: Is it something you do subconsciously?
K: I don't attract it anymore.
PG: People know not to fuck with you.
K: And I'm not in that —. It's just the, it's just the energy of the world. I am I'm not, I'm never in a place where, rarely, in a place where, uh, I'm a victim. Sometimes it happens but rarely, very rarely am in a place where I am seen as a victim. Because I'm not a victim anymore. I know how to take care of myself —
K: I put myself in a treatment center. Um —
PG: How old were you?
K: I was thirty and I was doing some outpatient work and still didn't get it, didn't understand it, didn't believe anybody, but was willing to go to this treatment center.
And um, I must have been open, I must have been finally open, because I was in enough pain and didn't understand what was going on in my life. And um, just started listening.
PG: So you didn't think -'this is what I need' you just thought - 'what the fuck'?
PG: 'Got nothing to lose'?
PG: 'Can't keep living the way I'm living'?
K: Yup. Don't understand why I'm so…, I'm going to use the word powerless but I didn't use that word then, 'just have no idea why I'm doing this stuff', and 'why I'm suicidal right now'. I mean I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, I couldn't, I literally could not function.
PG: What, What were the feelings that you didn't want to feel and what were the feelings that, that you got when you would get…?
K: The feelings that I got were, uh, oblivion. It's just oblivion. Like, just the ultimate feeling of not being present.
PG: um… hmm.
K: Oblivion. And the feelings I was trying to get away from was 'I got to kill myself', 'I'm so depressed, 'I'm in so much pain', 'I can't be in my skin, and I've got to kill myself'.
PG: What are some of the thoughts that are driving you to, that were driving you to think 'I have to kill myself'?
K: Of life. Of —
PG: Get as, as specific as you, as you can.
K: The fear was… I couldn't be without somebody. I just couldn't be without somebody.
PG: Afraid of being alone.
K: I was so afraid to be alone. I was so afraid to make a decision. I was so afraid to drive down the street. I was so afraid to go to sleep.
PG: What, what did you think would happen…?
K: I would die. I wanted to die.
PG: Somebody would kill you in your sleep?
K: No! I just, I was so afraid to go to sleep 'cause I thought I would die, I was so afraid to wake up because I couldn't deal with life. I was so afraid I was gonna kill myself. It just everything I was afraid of. It didn't feel like anxiety. It's just felt like… painful fear, it's the only way I can explain it.
PG: Where where… Did you feel it like in your body? A flash feeling of fear or like a gnawing thing in the pit of your stomach? What…
K: Like a knife through my heart.
K: Like I couldn't take a deep breath and it was a knife through my heart 24/7.
PG: Oh my God! [laughs]
K: And I'm not kidding. That's how I felt all the time.
PG: Oh, I believe you. Who, who wouldn't feel that way having gone through the stuff that you'd gone through?
K: What I learned from all the abuse was… You know, when you go through sex abuse as a child you learn to remove yourself from where you are. Become not present.
PG: To kind of leave your body.
K: To leave your body and that's where I was trying to get at all times- ultimate oblivion. Just leave my body and that's where I was always trying to get.
Because I never experienced sex as something I enjoyed, ever. 'Cause I started it from sexual abuse, it was always people wanted to do this, it was, I never experienced it as something that somebody wanted to share with me, it was always something somebody wanted to take from me. So I never experienced it as a good experience. It never was a good experience for me. So I used that, I used that like a cutter uses a blade.
PG: Wow! Wow! It makes total sense and yet —
K: And it worked.
PG: it's the craziest thing, in the… you could imagine. You know that somebody would go seek out something that brings them pain, but … it makes sense that to feel pain is better than to feel that your… gonna die any second.
K: Well and also I did all the crazy acting out that people do, so I was waiting for the serial killer to come get me, I was hoping for the serial killer!
PG: So, so would you specifically go -'Oh that guy's creepy I better get his number'?
K: I mean all of the really crazy acting out I did, part of that was a high for me, and the high was – hopefully today I will die.
PG: Oh my God!
K: Absolutely. Hopefully —'Cause I couldn't kill, I tried to kill myself and it didn't work. I'm a wimp I don't like pain, I'm not very violent with myself. But hopefully somebody will kill me. Somebody — look I grew up with people beating me up my whole life, right?
K: That's my connection, so hopefully somebody will do it.
PG: Well, you know, I say 'wow' and 'oh my god' as if it this is foreign to me. But you know, I've shared on previous episodes of this podcast that there were years when I was so suicidal that when I would fly on plains, I would pray that the plain would go down so I didn't have to make the decision of killing myself. And we would hit a turbulent patch and I would think 'Yes!'—
K: Oh my gosh
PG: 'This is, it let's go Motherfuckers —
'let's go', you know, So I guess, I can—the thing that we have in common is that wanting to, just wanting it to be over, wanting the pain and the discomfort to be over with. And, if there is anybody who's listening to this, um… and you're listening to how dramatic Karma's story is, don't minimize what it is that you've been through because what you share in common with her and with me is that feeling. And we can run from those feelings the rest of our lives, but there gonna come out one way or another, you're gonna be a rageaholic, or you gonna drink too much, or eat too much, or you gonna cut or whatever, they cannot, you cannot escape them —
PG: so you might as well confront them.
PG: And so what did you discover as you started getting into treatment?
K: I did, I did.
PG: What did you discover?
K: [sigh] Lots of things [laughs]
PG: What do you remember?
K: Lots of things.
PG: What what kind of sticks out, uh, in your, in your mind post that decision that 'I'm gonna go get help even though I think this probably isn't gonna help'.
K: Um, Yeah, It was, I felt, you know, I really had to let go of who, everything I was but I got really good help. The one thing about me is I'll go to the nth degree if I'm going to do something —
PG: Um… hmm.
K: and I did. I got really good help.
PG: And so it was inpatient?
K: It was inpatient.
PG: For how long?
K: The first stint was five weeks.
PG: And how long ago was this?
K: This was in '98, end of '98 and beginning of '99 and then I went to some after care for four weeks. And then I did another one year of outpatient. And I've been, um, you know, keeping it up for 13 years.
K: And I keep it up diligently because it's the only thing that's gonna keep me sane.
PG: Um… hmm.
K: Right? And I take it seriously because I don't want to ever go back there.
K: I don't want to go back there.
PG: Can you talk about that period when you still haven't got a relief from the pain of your past and now you're feeling the double scoop—
PG: Of you're going into that to try to get better. And so it's like that period of where it has to get a little worse for a second.
K: It does. The first few years of, of working through and being in reality and dealing with the truth of what my life was about was the hardest thing I've ever done. But I had a great support system. I had support from people I didn't know, I didn't like and I didn't want help from.
K: I did.
PG: But you took it anyway.
K: I took it and there still with me today.
I also, this was an interesting thing; I had support from people who never ever knew what was going on, that I had known since I was five year old. And these were my friends who I went to school with, they never knew anything, and there still my friends today. And once they found out everything that was going on, they still stuck with me. I had to live with some of them even though I owned my own house. I mean these people are still me friends. And I'm telling you, they walk me through anything I need, no matter what.
And I believe that there is a reason for all of that. They watched me, you know, growing up, come to school, lying through my life and not ever knowing what was going on and they were cool, we were all friends. And then when it came out what was really going on in my life, they didn't walk away and there still here.
P: How old were you when that came out when you started getting treatment?
K: At 30, so 25 years I knew these people and they were happy to be in my life. And then when they knew the truth they're still happy to be in my life. You know—
PG: What would have made them flee?
K: Well, people don't like to— a lot of people in the world, don't want to be friends or be around people who have stories like mine.
PG: Just because you think it made them uncomfortable that deep kind of —
PG: Weird conversations were gonna come up that were gonna freak 'em out?
K: Yes, because they know my families, they've been —
PG: Oh, yeah!
K: coming to my home and my family parties my whole life.
PG: So they need to look your dad in the eye!
K: They have to look all of my family, they have to look my siblings in the eyes, they have to look everybody in the eyes.
PG: Now does your family know that these people then know?
K: They know! Everybody knows, yes —
PG: Everybody knows everybody knows.
K: Everybody knows that everybody knows everything. Because I, I don't lie about anything anymore. I don't lie about anything anymore. So they know, th…, everybody knows. But everybody treats each other with respect. And nobody —and that's the thing about my friends is that there just amazing people. And so I have gained new people in my life who support me, I've had these old people in my life who support me. I don't know how it happened. But that's what's brought me through and saved me through the times where I've had, you know, I've had to get straight I've had to deal with reality, I had to change my life, and I had to- now decide who I was.
PG: And what did you find out?
K: Oh my Gosh, that I'm not a bad person, that I'm not all the things I thought I was my whole life. And that I get to be who I want to be not who I was told I was.
PG: What were you told you were?
K: Oh [sobs], that I was dumb and ugly and useless and… stupid. And, you know, all these things, my brother had a picture that he gave me once of, um, it was a photocopy of a skeleton of a lady sitting on a park bench with a purse, and it's sort of waiting for Mr. right [laughs slightly], and he, my brother is just the cruelest person in the world. He's just always been cruel to me. Um, and I don't, I am not who he has always tried to make me believe I was, and- I'm just who I g-, who I want to be. I'm who I want to be, not who all they think I am or want me to be. And this personality is not who any of them want to be, even to this day they struggle with me.
PG: I would imagine they would, because you grabbed that power that was just sitting on the night stand.
PG: and they haven't.
K: And it's difficult for them.
PG: And so they, I would imagine, grab it in unhealthy ways like putting you down, because that's a little jolt of power - for them.
K: Very difficult for them
PG: And threatening because you got better.
K: Yes. Being the one who got better all of those things are very difficult. I mean I can do stuff wrong and say 'I'm sorry', 'I'm sorry that I did that' they can't do that. It's all very difficult. But- I'm happy about who I am, I'm happy about my life, I'm happy about when I make mistakes, I'm happy about it all. And I'm happy that I don't live in that torment anymore.
I struggle with watching them 'cause I love them. But I have such a great, life, I have such a great life, and, you know, if I wouldn't have made it through — and they're the mirror for me. Because I don't think they have…, I hate to say this, but I don't think their lives are as great as my life.
PG: How could they be because they haven't addressed that pain? It's still ruling their life.
K: It makes me sad when I see different things that are going on in their lives. It really makes me sad. And I'm really happy that I don't have their lives.
K: Really happy.
PG: You… I can tell you that you're, you're an inspiration, uh, to me. I'm glad that our paths crossed. And that we've —the fact that you've always been open and honest, um, with me. Uh, But not in, not in a way that is that is - 'I'm going to drain you by letting you know about me' .Because there's also that person, you know, I think there are people out there that have this pain, and they have this anxiety, and they want to get better, and they want to reach out but they do it anyway that is too demanding of people that can't handle it, or inappropriate, or they dump, or they go into a monologue that lasts for 45 minutes. Well, you know, that's, that's not fair to the person that you're going to. Um… and then some of the times these people will write it off and say 'nobody's gives a shit'. No! You have to take responsibility for the way in which you share your pain with people, when you share you pain with people, who you share it with and how you share it with them. So if you take responsibility for that and try to do it a way that is healthy I think that 99 times out of 100 you're gonna be met with beautiful energy from that person that you go to. And you may even do it responsibly and still hit a wall with that person, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have done it. It just means, then, that that person not ready to connect to you on that level but don’t quit, don't give up.
K: Right, right right.
PG: You know —what are you thankful for this uh Christmas, or this Thanksgiving?
K: Well this Thanksgiving I really am, I was really touched by what happened to my sister. And unfortunately she's not capable of understanding that, but I have to say that um, I was really touched by the fact that once again in our lives I had to worry about, you know, whether my sister was gonna live or die again. Um, and she's ok and um, I'm really really touched by the fact that she made it through and that she's all right. And you know, I'm just praying that if affects her. And I'm tha…, she's coming out next weekend, and I'm really thankful that, um, that she's alright. And that I'm going to be able to see her.
K: And uh, and uh, and give her a hug and I'm actually gonna — she asked me, and I'm honored by this, she asked me to help her write her victim statement. And I'm going to help her do that, and I'm going to be of service to her and I'm really thankful for that, and that she's alive so that I, I still have her.
PG: It's a pretty big thing to be, to be grateful for and the fact that you, the fact that you can love and empathize with your sister, um which I would imagine would be impossible without the clarity of having gotten help and seeing the cause and effect of what happened to you as a kid and how you began to cope with those feelings as an adult.
K: Yeah and we've had, we've had — the last year has been kind of rocky for us because of her addictions, in my opinion.
PG: Yeah, yeah.
K: It's been really rocky for us. And so, um, really — um, and my mom had been visiting her a week or two or three before that. And again, my mom cannot fight for her life. We know this. And I don't have a relationship with my mom and haven't had for about 18 years. But, my mom could have been dead right now, so I'm very grateful that things turned out the way they did.
PG: Why? —uh… is it just too painful to go back and see somebody that has no desire to help themselves?
K: No, my mom um, my mom does not, uh —. This is an issue in my family, I think culturally my parents think they love me, I think they think they have to because of my culture. But my mom does not love or respect me. And I just can't — I choose not to have a relationship with somebody —
PG Is it just too painful?
PG: Until she comes around if she comes around.
K: And she — and I have no expectation that she'll come around. And from my perspective, I don't see love or respect from my mother, so I choose not to have a relationship with her.
PG: And that and that, is one of the things that I ,I wish for anybody out there that, that's listening that keeps hoping that people are going to change, people that cause you pain. It's OK to take time away from those people.
PG: Until they come around, um, and maybe they'll never come around.
PG: But at least you can take care of yourself. And there's even ways that you can be around them and still take care of yourself. Like it used to cause me tremendous pain that my dad, would never, would rarely acknowledge any accomplishment that I would do.
And I had this moment of clarity, uh, 'bout 10 years ago, when I'd come to him with something hoping for him to be impressed and to say nice things to me and it basically, you know, got shit on. You know.
K: Oh… [laughs]
PG: And I remember looking out the window and thinking 'why do I keep going to this rock expecting orange juice to come out of it', it's, it's insanity on my part. And so I accepted that my dad was just somebody who didn't have that to give, there's a lot of people who don't have that to give 'cause it wasn't given to them and they didn't learn how to find a place in themselves where, where it can flow out, for lack of a better word. So I was able to be around my dad and not hate him, for a, for not giving me that. And that, sometimes I think, is the best case scenario with people that are damaged. Um… And so we have to kind of decide, you know, is this somebody I'm going to be around and have very low expectations, or is this somebody that I can't even be around?
K: Right, right [laughs]
PG: But, uh, that's one of the steps to me on the road to…p… being good yourself, is, is asking yourself those questions about relationships, 'cause a lot of times the toxicity, I think, expresses itself in us wanting to win over people that are super fucked up because then that feels like a big win.
K: Right. And that was a big deal for me I wanted everybody to love me and everybody to, you know, I didn't want anybody to be mad at me, or, you know. If somebody didn't like me that was horrible for me. But I've learned that not everybody — and not everybody has to like me, and not everyone gonna, that's OK.
PG: Hmm… hopefully something that, that we've talked about here, uh, has either entertained or helped somebody. Uh.
PG: Maybe both. Uh, you know, I get emails from people that, that find this, this uh, this show to be uh, entertaining and, and uh hopeful, and occasionally enlightening and I take that as the ultimate compliment.
'Cause to me there is no better alchemy in the world than our pain going from something that drags us to the bottom of the ocean to being something that, uh, can give us clarity, uh, and help somebody else, that, that to me is like, that's turning just fucking horse manure into, into gold.
PG: And that is possible if we open up and share about it in a healthy way with the right people, and there's a gazillion people out there that are willing to listen, that are willing to help. And whose lives will actually be improved by you talking about your pain. You're — you know, you're not a burden by going to the right people with your pain you actually can help them feel a sense of purpose.
But when we're trapped in that self-pity and thinkin' we're cut off from the world were not connected, nobody gives a shit, it's the hardest thing in the world is to pick up that phone or to say 'hey man, I'm really hurtin' today'.
K: Right, that's true.
PG: I've started doing that when somebody says, you know, 'how you doing?' I've started saying - 'I'm not doing very well. I'm not OK'.
PG: and then I talk about it. Um, and that’s uh— that's a really —[laughs] for the first 46 years of my life, I never, I never did that. And I suppose most people probably don't expect somebody to to [laughs] give you the truth when they ask for it.
But, um, most times we, I think, we both feel better, after uh, after I say — I'll release the crazy ping pong balls bouncing around my skull.
K: And then I think people feel more connected.
PG: Well, I love you Karma
K: Oh, I love you too Paul
PG: Thanks for being in my life and thanks for coming on the podcast.
K: Thank you. Thank you.
PG: Many thanks to uh to Karma. We're not done yet. I just want to, uh thank a couple of people, remember I told you at the beginning of the show that I got a little something that, uh, hopefully brings a little smile to your face.
Um, but before that a couple of reminders; a couple of different ways that you can-, I'd like to say a couple a couple more times, a couple of different ways that you can support the podcast. You can support it financially by making a donation through Pay-Pal via the website. You can support us by, uh, when you buy something through Amazon if you go through the search, uh, window on our website, uh, Amazon give us a couple of nickels and it doesn't cost you anything.
You can support us non–financially by going to I-tunes and giving us a good rating. That really helps the show because that brings —boosts our ranking and that brings more people to the show. So I really appreciate you guys that have, have done that.
Um, I've mentioned T-shirts are available, uh sorry if I keep keep mentioning that that too many times, but I'm excited because I think they look really cool. Um, and uh, if you, if you feel like calling the phone number that we have, and leaving a, a Christmas memory that might be a fun. If I get enough of those and they're good that might be a fu — in fact, you know what, my favorite Christmas memory that somebody leaves, uh, on the phone number gets a free t-shirt, that phone number is, 818-uh, 571, I'm sorry no-818-574-7177. And um, yeah, that will be interesting to hear what memories, and could be a good memory it could be a bad memory, uh either way.
I want to thank, uh, Stig Greve for running the website, uh John and Michael for help keeping the spammers out of the forum, my wife Carla for uh always giving me good feedback. Thank you guys for giving me emails and giving me feedback, and without any uh further ado, I'd promised I'd send you out, with hopefully a little bit of a chuckle.
This was a crank phone call that I made — years ago I used to have a radio, internet radio show, and um, I called — we would do a theme every every week and one week the theme I think was vacations or cruises or something so I called uh
Carnival Cruise pretending to be somebody who was looking to book a cruise for their, their family. And so here it is: