Two Cents

I was going to start this post by saying, “look, I’m nobody, but here’s my thoughts on the suicide of Robin Williams”, but then the overwhelming thought of “BULLSHIT” crept into my brain, and I stopped myself.

No one is “nobody”.

Everyone is important to someone, even if that someone is just your dog.  Even someone living alone, without family, is important. When my father-in-law, whom I’d never met due to his estrangement from my husband, died, my husband collapsed into a puddle of tears.  By all accounts my father-in-law was no good…a self-absorbed hustler and thief who spent more time as a “guest of the state” than he spent with his son, but he was the only father my husband had, and when he died in his late fifties due to Parkinson’s Disease, it left a hole in my husband, a hole that he hoped his father would someday at least try to fill in.  That chance is lost now.

But you know what?  The fact that “no one is nobody” doesn’t mean jack crap to someone in the throes of depression.  Not, “I’m sad” depression, but hard core, clinical depression.

The amount of money you have doesn’t matter.

The fact that you’re married to someone who loves you doesn’t matter.

The fact that you have children who adore you doesn’t matter.

The fact that you can make everyone laugh doesn’t matter.

The fact that you have an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Golden Globe award doesn’t matter.

The fact that you are beloved throughout the world doesn’t matter.

Your “spirituality” or religion doesn’t matter.  I am a Jehovah’s Witness.  I firmly believe in a supreme being.  I believe he didn’t intend for us to live this way, and has plans for our future. I believe the meek shall inherit the earth and reside forever upon it. And I believe he sent his son to earth to die for us.  For ALL of us. Except for me, because my depression tells me I’m crap and don’t deserve any good thing. JWs suffer from depression, as do agnostics, atheists, buddhists, you name it.

When you don’t suffer from depression, it’s amazing how easily life can pass you by. You wake up in the morning and go about your day without much thought.  You have things to do and people to see, and even if you’re not laughing non-stop throughout the day, there’s still an element of enjoyment to your life. You enjoy your job, or hanging out with your co-workers, or you’re taking a really interesting class, or you are looking forward to a dinner date, or what your spouse is cooking on the stove, or maybe it’s just your weekend plans that have you excited.

And then there’s clinical depression. Nothing you think of doesn’t cause you pain. You can’t concentrate.  It feels like there’s a concrete blanket on your brain, blocking out any good or even interesting thing. Because your own thoughts cause you so much pain, you don’t want to think anymore. So you sleep.  And sleep.  And sleep.  Or, if you find yourself unable to sleep, you are desperate for something to entertain you. Except, nothing you once found amusing or entertaining holds any appeal to you. If you have to interact with other people, who often find yourself having to pretend to feel okay because most people have no patience for depression.

“What do you have to be depressed about?”

“But you have so much!?”

“Don’t you know there’s so many other people in the world that have it worse than you?”.

Thank you, assholes. Not only am I taking up space, but I can see from your words that apparently I’m selfish and self-absorbed to boot.  Thanks for that.

So, in the hopes of avoiding such UTTERLY UNHELPFUL comments, you try to put on a brave face, which is exhausting. Or, you avoid people all together.  You retract, you hide, you avoid phone calls.

There is no talking yourself out of it. There is no pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  Your brain is awash in a toxic chemical bath that allows you no relief, save medication, which, like any medicine, takes time to work.  And you can become tolerant of it.  And sometimes you need more than one type, or a higher dosage.

Often people will self-medicate.  “I feel like crap all the time, except when I’m drinking/smoking pot/taking oxycontin/ [insert drug of choice], so I’ll just keep ingesting that”. This, sadly, just makes things worse down the road, but when you’re desperate to feel good….hell, when you’re desperate to just not feel bad…then you’ll go for the quick high/buzz and consequences be damned.

If you’re successful at some part of your life, be it actor, comedian, insurance broker, whatever, you find yourself desperately afraid that people will “find out” that you’re a fraud, because that’s what you think you are. How could you not? You’re crap, remember?  So if any of your efforts meet with success, it’s just a matter of time before people find out you’ve conned them.

After a while, you might start to believe that those you love would be better off without you. You start to daydream about ways to die. Perhaps they aren’t straight up suicidal thoughts at first.  More like, “I wouldn’t mind being dead” thoughts. You fantasize about dying in a car crash, or that cold you have turning into double pneumonia.

And there may come a day, a moment, when you die for real. I’ve written before about my own suicide attempt 19 years ago. For me to reach that moment when I swallowed the bottle of pills, every person I cared about, every thing I ever looked forward to, every thing I ever liked about myself, had to die.  It all went away, in my mind. There was nothing but darkness, nothing but pain, and I couldn’t take it another moment.  Obviously, I can’t ask Josh, or Margie, or Robin Williams if they felt that same darkness, but I assume they had.

And let’s not forget, this is a disease. If you have a tumor on your liver, you listen to what the doctor tells you, weigh the treatment options, and choose to have the tumor removed, or to shrink it with medication.  When the disease is in your brain, it effects HOW you think (poor concentration) and WHAT you think (“I’m crap, I’m crap, I’m crap”).  Depression lies, all day long.  Rational thinking is out the window.

It’s impossible for someone who’s never been there to conceive of just how badly someone has to feel to end their own life.  It’s just not natural.  Whether you believe we evolved from other species or were created by a supreme being, we must concede that all normal, healthy people have a survival instinct.  We have adrenalin that gives us the strength to get out of harms way, we have the reflexes that cause us to jump back when burned, or when we’re walking on the sidewalk and hear car tires screech nearby. But in that final moment of life, in the moment it took Josh to put the shotgun barrel in his mouth and pull the trigger, or for Margie or Robin to slip their head in the noose and take that last step to oblivion, that instinct to survive is gone. All you see is a way to end your pain.  You don’t see the pain you’ll leave behind.  The broken-hearted loved ones who are left asking, “why?”

It took me years to accept the fact that in the final moment of Josh’s life, he didn’t love me.  He didn’t love anyone. Rather than take that as a failure on my part, I’ve come to recognize just how much he hurt, and that is what makes me cry for him, for Margie, and for Robin Williams.

I can’t think of a time in my life when Robin Williams wasn’t someone I knew of.  He made me laugh countless times, and blew me away with his dramatic roles.  His humor, depth, and range touched and impressed me, and I will be forever saddened that he was so broken.

We have to change the way we talk about these things.  Dr. Drew makes a good point in this piece…

Williams had a brain disease. It wasn’t a demon or a devil. In fact, I strongly object to people referring to those with psychiatric illnesses as “struggling with inner demons.” That only promotes a primitive and stigmatizing sense of these conditions. We don’t say someone is struggling with an inner demon when they have a tumor somewhere — although there was a time when we did! And we have not relinquished these backwards notions when we refer to disorders of the brain.

I’m no professional, but I can say this;  Most people don’t commit suicide in the company of others. If you know someone who is struggling, no matter how much they try to push you away, don’t let them. Stick with them. Be a pain in the ass. If you are angry with them for being depressed, use it, not to make them feel guilty, but as a reminder that you really care about them and want your friend/loved one back, so by god you’re going to stick with them until they are through this. Friends and family get mad at each other.  DON’T WALK AWAY.

To quote Stephen Fry, who has famously struggled with depression for years…

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

And, lastly, I’ll let Dr. Drew speak a bit more.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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Step outside for a minute

Not literally, unless you think it will help.  I mean, when you’re thinking of your own problems, or watching tv (specifically, advertisements)…step outside your own world for a moment, and think about someone else.  I try to do this from time to time, and it can be alarming.

Example.  The other day I was watching Almost Human (Fox better not cancel it!) online and up popped a commercial for the Kindle, with the selling point being that it can be read in sunlight.  Two skinny white chicks sitting next to the pool in a tropical locale, one struggling to read her iPad, the other happily reading her Kindle.  The first thing that popped into my mind is “first world problem”.  It can be sooo easy to forget how privileged we have it.  By “we” I mean members of the middle class and up.  This can mean Americans, Britons….anyone who’s biggest concern on any given day may be that they can’t read their $500+ tablet in sunlight.  We can become so insulated, it’s easy to forget there are those out there without electricity, let alone without a tablet to read on.  Maybe they can’t read.  Watch enough advertising and it can be easy to forget that there are non-whites in the world.

One of the things I find helpful, but that I do far too infrequently, is to try to pull my head out of my ass long enough to empathize with those who have less than I do.  Not just materially less, but physically, mentally, even spiritually less.  I’m not trying to sound like an egotistical ass, but I probably do.  For example, I was abused as a child, struggle with depression/bipolar, loathe myself physically, and am not living the life I want to live.  Yadda yadda yadda.  I was given a harsh reminder of how good I have it the other day when I learned that Josh’s sister has breast cancer.  At the age of 36, she had to have a mastectomy.  Her mother abandoned her and her brothers when she was a baby, her father was killed in a worksite accident not long after, so her unbalanced, drug addict mother returned and took in her inheritance and her brothers, one of whom would commit suicide when she was 18.  She’s struggled her entire life with drugs and abusive men, and now has to fight cancer.  But, no worries, since she has little education and no money, the prospects for her beating this are great!

Her life makes my life look like a Hallmark film, and I need to be more grateful.

But I’m sure if I buy her a get well gift, like a Kindle she can read as she lounges by the pool, all will be well.

Scale of Honesty

Ewww, sounds like a bad Dr. Who episode.

My brother is pursuing a second Masters degree in counseling.  Today in class they discussed the ethics of being a counselor and he thought of me or, more specifically, this blog.

He’s one of the few people I know who’s reading it, and he is concerned that, if a licensed professional counselor reads about my bouts with depression and sees reference to my past suicide attempt, they may be ethically bound to contact the police in an effort to make sure I’m okay.  Of course, there would be consequences to that, my biggest concern being my daughter.  I told him I’ve often questioned just how open I want to be on this thing.

I try not to be so vain to think that hundreds of people are reading it.  I know that’s not the case.  But, of course, when you put something out on the internet, it’s out there for anyone to read.  As helpful as it has been to give voice to my issues and concerns, I continually have to ask myself, “how far do I go?”  That may be one of the reasons I have yet to tackle the subject of my childhood abuse in great detail.  It’s not something I’ve discussed in depth with too many people, and I’m not sure I want to.

But I know that I’m not alone, that so many of the issues I’ve struggled with…depression, addiction, suicide, regret….they are issues that soooo many people struggle with.  Reading about William Styron’s struggles with depression helped me.  Maybe my putting myself out there might help someone else?

I’ve kept so much in for so long…I’m really trying to live a more honest and open life and letting go of the facade I’ve built to keep people out. “Mustn’t let anyone see my flaws.  Must try to convince everyone I’m together and happy”.  Truth is, sometimes I’m together, and sometimes I’m not.  Sometimes I’m happy, and sometimes, not so much.  Lately, I’ve been pretty good.  I’m far from the 20 foot hole, staying positive and just taking the days as they come.

Honestly.

Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995

I think everyone has years and sometimes specific dates that stand out for them.  September 11, 2001 is a no-brainer for everyone.  2004 was the year of my marriage; 2007 the birth of my daughter.  1995 by far had the heaviest emotional toll on me.

1995 began with that charge you feel when you’re falling in love again. Josh and I had one of those relationships where we just “got” each other.  Once we were together, we were like peas and carrots.  The voices in his head became the jalapeno sauce that was smothered on top so thick it became inedible.  But, in the beginning, things were good.  In November he died.  I went back to Texas.  The day after Christmas, my beloved uncle Don died.  My mom asked me if I felt up to going back to Enid for the funeral.  I said I was.  That’s when she decided to break the news to me that my sweet husky, Barnabas, had been gored by my grandfather’s goat and died the day after Thanksgiving.

November and December of 1995 sucked ass.

April wasn’t so spiffy, either.

In early April, Josh finally agreed to go to rehab.  His mother and I took him down to Norman, south of Oklahoma City, to a rehab center there. The staff evaluated him, and decided that rehab would be pointless for a man who believed we were all aliens sent to earth to influence him. Most of those around him were from Mars, he said, because they were there to make war with him.  He said I was from Venus, because I was love to him.  That brought me a little comfort that he still felt something like love for me inside his tortured self.  The staff recommended he cross the quad to visit the mental hospital.  We went over and he checked in.  They immediately put him on meds, which sedated him enough that he was completely unaware of the happenings just 16 miles away on April 19th.

I had had a friend over that morning.  After she left, Lee called me. “Did you hear about the bombing in Oklahoma City?”  I know this sounds strange, but it didn’t really register.  Maybe I’d seen too many explosions in the movies to really understand what had happened.  I turned on the tv, and sank into the couch in horror at the images I saw.  OKC looked like a war zone.  It was stunning.

I don’t remember how many days passed before Lee and I drove down to Norman to visit Josh.  When travelling from Enid to Norman, you drive through OKC, unless you want to drive out of your way.  We decided to see what we could see downtown.

The streets were cordoned off within a 16 block radius.  There were soldiers and police officers standing outside the barricade, one literally every two feet.  No way in hell anyone was getting past those guys. All the businesses we drove past had plywood on the windows where glass had once been.  Everyone walking on the street looked like a zombie.  No one seemed to be talking, and they moved slowly, like the sadness in their hearts had turned their blood to liquid cement.

We continued our drive to Norman without speaking.  When we arrived at the hospital and finally saw Josh, he still didn’t know about the bombing.  People felt it as far as 55 miles away, but he was so zonked on anti-psychotics, he didn’t have a clue.

That was the only time Lee visited him down there in the month he was a patient.  I went down about half a dozen times.  I would listen to the radio on the way down.  I don’t remember what station I listened to, but I know it didn’t play hardly any music.  The DJs would just come in to report on the rescue efforts at the Murrah building.  I remember being amazed at the stories they told.

“Okay, we just heard from the site….the rescue workers are running low on D batteries.  And they need those footy pantyhose things, or baby socks…something to put on the search and rescue dogs’ feet so they don’t get cut by the shattered glass”

Within less than 30 minutes, they’d announce that the need was filled. People had filled their cars up with whatever they could grab and were waiting at the perimeter until what they’d brought would be needed. Batteries, flashlights, booties, water bottles, food.  You name it, these angels were just waiting to provide it.

The only song I remember being played was Live’s “Lighting Crashes”. I heard it today on the radio, hence my writing on this subject today. Everytime I hear that song, I think of the OKC bombing, and of Josh. Someone at the station had mixed in soundbites from the news. I’ve always remembered the voice of this one woman crying “whoever did this, I hope you’re happy”. I also remember a reporter speaking of rescue workers being so torn up at the sight of the wounded and murdered children they had to remove from the building, they couldn’t look down at the tiny bundles they carried.  I haven’t heard that mix since 1995, but tonight  I decided to see if I could find it online.  I did.

I almost cried in the car tonight when I heard the original come on the radio.  I always tear up.  When I watched the above, however, there was no almost.

Years later I flew into OKC from California to visit the grandparents. I told them not to expect me at the usual time (everyone knows it takes 90 minutes to get from “the city” to my grandparent’s house in Enid). I went to the memorial. It was beautiful. The 168 bronze and stone chairs to represent the victims, the tree that survived the blast and still bears its’ scars, and my favorite, the two gates. On one gate is inscribed, “9:01”, on the other gate “9:03”. The pool that separates them is meant to represent 9:02am, the moment the bomb detonated. On one side of the memorial was a chain link fence that carried the pictures and other remembrances of those who died.

I got in the car and drove to Enid and hugged the bajeezus out of my family.

I know that what happened on 9/11 cost far more lives and had a wider impact than what happened in OKC 6 years earlier, but, being from Oklahoma and having lived there at the time, well, it obviously means something else to me.  It is forever intertwined with bittersweet memories of Don and Barnabas, but mostly, of Josh, one of too many people who died that year.

When you hear someone committed suicide…shut up

….unless you’re going to express sympathy.

Some of my officemates were discussing the suicide of Don Cornelius.  This is not the first time they’ve discussed someone’s suicide, nor is it the first time I wanted to punch them in the face for their remarks.

“That person had so much to live for.”

“Come on, how bad could their life have been?”

“Tomorrow’s another day, people!”

Okay, morons, let me tell you something about suicide.  It’s not something done lightly, and it’s usually born of severe depression.  What’s depression?  My best way of describing depression is a lack of any and all hope that life will get better.  You hear that, twits?  The suicidal person doesn’t see anything to live for.  They can’t see the good in their life.  They can’t see tomorrow being any better.

These people who lack empathy are everywhere, and it seems I’ve always known SOMEONE like that.  I remember when I was in high school, there was a rash of teen suicides. Like, 6 in a month or something.  I had ridden the bus in junior high with one of the boys who died.  I remember one of my classmates talking about how stupid the guy was…Chris (the teen who had killed himself) was on the football team, drove a nice pickup truck, was on the honor roll, had a girlfriend….what’d he have to kill himself over?  I remember jumping on my classmate, in front of everyone…”You have no idea what you’re talking about.  Every one of those things is superficial.  You have no idea what was going on in his life, or anyone’s life outside your own. Someone could tell you of the things they’ve experienced and you STILL wouldn’t have any concept of the pain that person felt”.  My classmate was stunned.  He’d never seen me speak up like that.

I’ve written before of Josh’s suicide, so I won’t rehash that, but I can speak of my own suicide attempt a month after he died. I was drunk, of course, and I had (stupidly) called (psycho) Lee because I had heard her mother had died shortly after Josh and I wanted to express my condolences.  She was so hateful to me.  She told me I could die and no one would care.  Between Josh’s death and my intoxication, those words were just enough to send me to the medicine cabinet.  I found a bottle of Unisom, and swallowed half of them.  I remember feeling completely terrified, and trying to throw them back up.  Two came up.  I resigned myself to dying, and swallowed the rest of the bottle.

As the drugs worked their way into my system, I remember seeing “worms” crawling on the ground, and hearing voices, making the experience even more frightening.  At some point, my mother came into the room.  We had a conversation, and I vaguely recall her asking me if I knew where I was.  I told her I was in Dallas (I wasn’t), and I think I mentioned something about having gone to see Kristen, my best friend from junior high whom I hadn’t seen in years.  I remember my mother getting mad at me for not making sense, but I also remember her crying.  She was terrified.  She made me turn off the light and she sat there, in the dark, watching me until I fell asleep.

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning.  I’ve never been so sick in my life as I was that weekend.  I remember hearing my mother having a conversation with my brother outside my door.  She asked him if he had any idea how much I’d had to drink the night before, and told him some of our conversation and how out of it I was.  She apparently convinced herself I had just been drunk, but asked my brother to stay home with me that Monday, just to keep an eye on me.  When I look at my daughter, I’m certainly grateful my attempt wasn’t successful.

A woman I worked with for four years committed suicide a couple of years ago.  She hung herself.  It broke my heart.

Yes, life tends to get better, but the thing people have to understand is, a suicidal person simply doesn’t see that.  And in that final moment, that moment when you pull the trigger or slip your head through the noose or swallow the pills, you don’t care about your loved ones.  That was a tough thing for me to accept…that in the moment that Josh put the barrel of that rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger, he didn’t love me or anyone else.  Your job, the car you drive, or what you’ve accomplished…none of it registers.  All you want is a way to escape the pain.  Imagine how much you have to hurt to want to kill yourself.

As much as those who commit suicide have my sympathy, I also want to smack them.  I’ve said many times, the next time I see Josh, I’m gonna squeeze the stuffing out of him and shower him with kisses.  And then I’m gonna smack him for the pain he caused his brother and his family, and me.  Same with Margie.  A hug and a smack.

And maybe the next time I hear people up in their ivory tower condescending about someone’s suicide, maybe they’ll just get the smack and a lecture about how lucky they are to have not felt that kinda pain.

The birth of a cynic

One of the things I aspire to is to peel away the hard shell I’ve formed. This is the first part in the story of how that shell was formed.

I can vaguely recall a time when I honestly believed people were basically good. That time has long since passed. I also very clearly remember truly believing 99% of what people told me because, after all, I wouldn’t lie to people, so why would they lie to me?

There are three people who changed my view and turned me into the distrustful cynic I am now. Josh’s mother, Lee, my boss at the TV station in Oklahoma, Chuck, and a former co-worker of mine, whom I’ll call Almond Joy…flaky and nuts. I met them in that order.

In 1994 I was 24 years-old and living in that mecca of entertainment, Enid, Oklahoma. I answered an ad for a video camera operator and editor, and went to work for Lee. We shot commercials for local businesses and created video yearbooks for some of the local schools. She got me involved with the local cable access station. We produced lots of programming for them and spent a great deal of time in their studios. Lee and I hit it off immediately, and I was sympathetic to her story. She spoke of her now-deceased ex-husband, and how he had stolen her three children from her when they were babies, whisked away in the middle of the night. They were raised to hate her, she said, and had been told she was dead. It was only her determination and love as a mother that reunited them upon her ex-husband’s death, but her children were ungrateful and hateful to her now. At least, that’s the story she told.

I can’t remember how long I bought into it, but I do remember when it started to fall apart. I met her kids. They were 20, 19, and 17. I was taken aback at first, for they were nothing like she had described. I thought nothing of it at first. But as I got to know them, I heard their life story from their point of view, and it was different than the yarn spun by Lee. It’s not unusual for people to remember the same events differently, so I started paying closer attention.

I started to notice a pattern. Lee and I would be out somewhere and something of note would happen, then we’d return to the studio to edit, and I’d listen to her retell the story to one of our friends. Only she’d “embellish”. She’d revise the story with facts that didn’t happen, or make herself the center of the story when she had not been, either by making herself more heroic or more sympathetic, depending on the audience. She would relate these fabrications right in front of me, even though I had been a witness to the event, without the slightest bit of shame, or even acknowledgement that she was lying through her teeth. I came to realize, she did that a lot. She was my first pathological liar. He ex-husband had not stolen her kids from her, she had abandoned them when they were in diapers. They had not been told she was dead, she was living in Florida, having gone there after having convinced a small health clinic that she was a doctor. The kids still had the name badges she had made for herself that had her name with “MD” behind them. They still had a copy of the letter she had sent the clinic. She was living her carefree life, sailing off the waters of Florida, when her ex-husband died in a construction accident on the job. Suddenly, the kids needed her. And she needed to be their guardian in order to spend the insurance benefits they received. She took their money and bought a 27 foot sloop, a sailboat she docked in Kaw lake, outside Ponca City, Oklahoma. She moved those three kids and herself onto that boat, and that’s where they lived, I don’t recall for how long. She worked the odd job now and then, but largely the family lived off the insurance.

Years later, part of Josh’s treatment involved drawing pictures of the events in his life that led him down the path he was on. He was to draw his life as it was, and his life as it should have been. He drew a picture of his father’s funeral, and of he and his siblings riding along in his mother’s SUV, the windows rolled up and the car filled with her pot smoke. His drawings of what his life should have been was dramatically different. As I got to know the kids, Josh and I started to fall for each other. By that time, I had realized I needed to withdraw from Lee’s life as much as possible. Nothing she said could be trusted. Even decades later, I’m still discovering her lies. By the time Josh committed suicide, she and I hardly saw each other. She only saw Josh every month or so. That day, we all gathered at her house. She was sitting in the center of the room, crying without tears. She lamented on and on about losing her baby boy, and turned to her daughter, her youngest, and proclaimed, “you will have to take his place in my life”. The more she went on and on, as though she were June Cleaver who now had to bury the Beaver, I lost it. I lunged at her, shouting, “You only saw him once a month!” My mother, who had been visiting that weekend and was there when I got the call, had to hold me back from hitting her. She and Lee’s husband, Ronnie, escorted me to another room to calm down. Ronnie was very sweet and did his best to comfort me, a fact which infuriated Lee all the more. This was her moment to shine, and he and everyone else better damn well pay attention to her. I left her house that day, not to see her again for a year.

I couldn’t bring myself to go to Josh’s funeral, especially after learning that she’d ask the family drug dealer to be a pallbearer. Whether you believe in god or karma, he/it was at work that day, for the drug dealer’s car broke down, and he was unable to carry Josh’s casket. My good friend Christine went in my place, a sweet, thoughtful Jehovah’s Witness I had come to know and love.

I had been laid off work two days before his death, so it was decided I’d go back to San Antonio to recover. When Lee found out, she left a note on my door, proclaiming me a traitor and that I was abandoning her. She referenced herself 16 times in that letter. She referenced Josh twice.

It was later I found out the events of Josh’s last night. He arrived with his mother at his brother’s house, wreaking of marijuana. Because, you know, pot is the best medicine for a teenage schizophrenic checking out of a mental health/substance abuse facility. Mother knows best. His mother proclaimed him a burden, and left him there. He left no note, so I can only assume he saw no hope. I realize now that he was doomed, no matter what. All he’d ever known in his life was loss, drugs, and dysfunction. Though he lived with his brother and paternal grandmother (the “normal” ones), the rest of his life was filled with alcoholics and drug addicts, and people that didn’t truly care for him. I, myself, was on the edge, exhausted and heartbroken from months of dealing with his addiction and mental health issues.

In Texas, I found some relief, up until the night I got drunk and swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. Amazingly, I survived, though I was very sick all weekend. That Monday, the mailman brought with him a letter from Lee. My mother, who at that point thought I had simply gotten very, very drunk, had asked my brother to stay with me that day, to keep an eye on me. He was the one who opened the letter. He didn’t let me read it, though he did show me the bottom of the last page, where Lee and her family had signed the letter, their affirmation of their hatred for me. Note to narcissistic pathological liars: when forging your families’ names on a letter, be sure to spell their names correctly. Months later I read the letter myself, and it was full of the easily verifiable lies I had become accustomed to from her. Christine hated me. “Stacey” hated me. The most insulting one was that the sole reason Josh killed himself was because he wanted to break up with me and I wouldn’t let him. Far more insulting to Josh than to me.

When I moved back to Oklahoma, I worked with Josh’s brother to make a PSA about Josh and drugs. It ran on the tv station I worked for. Lee called me up at work to scream at me, again proclaiming that everyone in her family now hated me, and how dare I make that PSA. Her lies were deflated a bit when I explained that I had the full blessing of other members of her family, including the ones who had given me the pictures used in the PSA. She started driving past my house at all hours, as noted by the sheriff’s deputies I lived next door to. By that time, the curtain was in complete tatters. I no longer believed in the Wizard, and came to realize that Lee had a reputation in this town of 45,000. That she had aliases, and had been telling whoppers since childhood, even managing to fool a local reporter once into thinking she was training for the Olympics as a runner. Years later, when she heard from her daughter-in-law (my good friend, yet one of the people Lee tried to convince me hated me) that I was moving to California, she, quite shockingly, stated, “Good. She’ll be successful there, she deserves happiness”. Stacy and I both knew all Lee had done to me, and were blown away by this new standard of self-deception. Lee actually believed we were still friends.

I’m still friends with Josh’s brother. We chat on Facebook now and again. He’s tried calling me a few times. I love him and want nothing but the best for him, but I feel it necessary to keep him at arms length. I fear letting him too far into my life will invite the crazy back. I pray he’s got a healthy relationship with his mother now (read: a non-existent one).

Lee was my first lesson in betrayal. The first person to teach me the lesson that not all people are honest. Or even sane, for that matter. You would think that lesson would have been enough. It wasn’t.