All is good. I am safe. I am warm. I am loved.
But tonight took an unexpected turn down memory lane to a time when I was not ok. I shared it with Maddie, and then got sucker punched by a show I wasn’t expecting to have anything like a personal connection to me.
I posted something in an Instagram story today and someone saw it. It was a silly picture from the movie Rushmore of Jason Schwartzman as the main character. Syndicated (a Bushwick theater) had posted it because they were going to screen it at their outdoor theater tonight. It reminded me of D and I was being silly.
And then D’s friend’s wife saw it. I don’t know her. I don’t think we’ve ever talked. Why she follows me evades all reason. I shouldn’t be a blip on that radar. But she does. I don’t know her. But I know her husband. His name is Scott. I had him arrested once. I’ll tell you the story. I’ll go into the dark and you can come along, but by the end, we’ll return to the light, so don’t you fret too much.
When I went to the U of A in 1997 to attend college, I wasn’t the slightest bit prepared. By this point my relationship with my mother had become so nasty we barely spoke. My father was never present. I was drinking heavily. I was suicidal. And I was in love with D. D could be good to me, but he was moody. And he’d break up with me when he felt like it. I was used to the rug being pulled out from under me, so it was really just more of the same. I know, womp womp.
But D took care of me in his own way. He was in love with me and I’d never really felt loved by anyone other than my father, so I was starved for it. I’d loved him since I was 11. I can carry a flame for an eternity. And for him I carried it six years. When he finally stopped finding me obnoxious, he fell in love. Never let it be said I lack persistence or gumption.
Anyway, my first semester at college was miserable. I had no support. I’d never been taught to cook or make a bed or do laundry or grocery shop or maintain a car. I didn’t have any innate survival skills or executive functioning abilities and I’d been thrown into the deep end of fending for myself. I spent my nights sitting in my closet, talking to D on the phone and crying a lot. I didn’t go to class. I wasn’t interested in school. I got a 1.8 GPA, and I was in serious peril of losing all my scholarships.
D had decided, and this will become relevant later, over that 1997 Labor Day weekend to transfer to the U of A from NAU, while visiting me. He didn’t tell me. We didn’t even discuss it. I was kind of grossed out because Princess Diana had died in a horrible car accident and D thought it was funny. I didn’t really care about her or the Royal Family, but I didn’t find anything funny with the tragedy. I only found out D had transferred after the fact. But whatever freedom I’d had in leaving home would be gone with him in town. He didn’t like me socializing. He didn’t want me talking to people. He had successfully dissuaded me from rushing for a sorority (ultimately a good decision). And he’d become controlling over what I wore.
But all those things just felt like love because they were tossed together with him driving to see me every weekend, supporting me when my parents had abandoned me, building a computer for me from parts, driving down to Tucson to change a tire because I didn’t know how. It was love. But our definitions were twisted and our brains warped by what we’d been told love was. And the fact that my mother didn’t want us together was only more reason to run in his direction.
With such a low GPA, I had to negotiate with the scholarship department to stay in school for Spring. I told them I’d get a 4.0 the next semester. I’d take a full load of courses, 18 credits, and ace them all. Big talk for someone who couldn’t find classrooms or study or read textbooks or remember what day it was. But somehow, I was doing it.
I was an awful roommate. I didn’t clean. I once left raw shrimp in our refrigerator for a couple weeks. I slept all hours. And I actively hated my roommate. I’d sometimes eat her candy when she was gone on weekends. Oh, and D and I were constantly having sex. I would hate me, too.
After my roommate brought her married boyfriend to spend the night, I just started staying in D’s dorm room most of the time, returning to my room only to work on my computer that I’d hooked up to the dorm network. I had an MIS coding class and an International Studies class that both had big projects due at semester’s end. I worked my ass off because I couldn’t go back home to Nogales. It wasn’t an option. Suicide, yes, living with my parents, no.
And then a couple days before finals week and everything was due, someone hacked my computer and replaced all of my files with porn and empty Word files. It didn’t take a genius to figure out who’d done it. The Word files all had Scott’s name on them. He lived in my dorm. He didn’t like me. And I guess he thought it would be funny. It wasn’t. He’d fucked me over. At that point, I didn’t want to die. And I wasn’t going home. The only way to make sure my professors knew I was telling the truth about the hack was to document it. I had to save myself.
I called UAPD. The cop who came to take my statement didn’t even know if it was a crime and didn’t understand the first thing about computers. My roommate was in the room when this was going down, and she too was friends with Scott. They arrested him and took him to jail.
D was pissed. He was a punk. He hated cops. He hated the legal system. He hated me. He wouldn’t talk to me. And my roommate thought I was a first rate bitch for having narced on Scott. The only person I had to talk to…was my mother. Oh, and Scott’s lawyer who tried to get me to drop the charges. I didn’t.
D finally agreed to help me recover what he could from previous versions of my saved files. I must have begged him. They were fragments but they were a start. I stayed up over 70 hours straight to reconstruct a website and a paper, give a presentation on the website and take my finals. I got the 4.0. I stayed in school. When I finally did collapse onto the lower bunk in D’s dorm room in Yavapai Hall, D took pictures of me passed out. And not nice ones.
The relationship didn’t get better. There were good times and bad times and honeymoon times, but I never knew where I stood. I never felt safe. And just as I was finally…finally making money as a lawyer, I had a mental breakdown and got misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and effectively had to quit my job because I couldn’t function on psych meds.
The psych meds made everything hard. I couldn’t control my weight. I couldn’t function. I was basically an invalid. And D couldn’t stand me. In his defense, I was awful. I’d learned coping mechanisms from a dysfunctional home and my mother learned how to be awful from her mother. I’d throw fits. I’d break shit. I bought so…much…stuff. And I was bulimic. But most of it was a reaction to D being vindictive for me not living up to my promise.
And I never did learn executive functioning skills. There were things I could do for myself. But I didn’t know how to pay bills on time or take the right pills in the morning and at night. D now had a job in Silicon Valley and he was gone a week every month to California. And when he was home, he was locked away in his office doing top secret shit that I wasn’t allowed to know about. He drank a lot. By the end, I was a lump on a couch and he was a lush who couldn’t stand the sight of me.
And then he left. And I still didn’t know how to take care of myself.
I only got worse after that. And the psych meds did their damage. I’d find out later that they released too much prolactin, resulting in serious hormonal problems and sterility. More than anything, I’d wanted to have children. It sounds so stupid now when you factor in that I was emotionally unstable and unable to care for myself, let alone anyone else. But it meant something to me. And at 32, I found out I’d never get the chance. I still haven’t unpacked that entirely, which brings me to tonight.
I’ve been watching Season 3 of The Crown, if only because I love Helena Bonham-Carter. And she really is good. But what I didn’t expect was the introduction of Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. In S3:E4, you find out that she was born deaf and thought to be slow, that she had a mental breakdown and was forcibly institutionalized and sterilized. Freud, the actual dude himself, prescribed irradiation of her ovaries to kill her libido and “cure” her at this fancy asylum in Switzerland.
But she did amazing things with her life and ended up a nun in a Greek Orthodox order. She was actually pretty amazing. And, like I said, I really, really don’t care about the Royal Family. It’s so incestuous they’d fit right in with all the people in Nogales who keep marrying, divorcing and marrying each other in different permutations.
I cried. I didn’t know I was in for a cry this evening and I’d rather not have. But I did. Because I was put in asylums. I was the shame of my family. I was estranged from my husband and publicly humiliated by his second wife telling people things about me who would say them to my face in front of strangers. I was cast aside as useless. I know that shame. I know what it means to be nothing to everyone. To be misunderstood so fundamentally.
I’ve thought about becoming a nun since I was in my 20’s. I did a search on Facebook to see how many times I’ve mentioned it. And it’s a lot, going back to 2012, when I was going through my divorce. But it goes back further. Who knows? I still might. This year has taught me that quiet contemplation can do a lot for the soul. And I’ll need quiet contemplation after my second husband, Mark Ronson, passes away in his sleep from old age. 😉
I promised you a return to the light after that trip to the dark, and here it is. I write to you now from my room in Brooklyn. And the story of my downfall and redemption to date has now become a story I’ve shared with people all over the world. I’ve made money telling this story. I’ve made fans. I’ve touched strangers who have gone to lengths to tell me their own stories and thank me for sharing mine. None of this would be possible if I hadn’t found it within me to save myself and get me here to this point. I don’t know what lies ahead, but like I said, I’ve got persistence and gumption. Do not worry your little head about me. Whatever happens, I have done right by myself. And I’m not the only one. Princess Alice went through this…she went through much worse. And she was an actual princess who should have lived a life of comfort and safety.
And remember, all is good. I am safe. I am warm. I am loved.