I’m a girl – check that – a lady. I married a fantastic man. I have a crappy job, but it’s okay. I hobby (yeah, hobby as a verb, got a problem with that?) – I read, embroider, write to pen pals, and water my dead plants.
I get panic attacks. I have Bipolar II Disorder. But it’s okay. I mean, I can’t cure it…so, I live with it, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it blows serious monkey balls most of the time. I’m currently untreated and once my insurance kicks in, I’ll still have to wait another six months to have it covered, “pre-existing condition” and all. (Wait, wait, I’m getting to something.) I’ve got a few problems – so what, right? I’m with the Band and “problems” is one tune we all sing.
So why do I feel like I’m the first person to bring up bed-wetting? I’m no expert. I don’t have any kids. I don’t know anyone who’s ever done it…sober. I never did it as a kid. I mean, well, since I got potty trained. I’m good at being potty trained.
Recently, though, I peed the bed. Not even in a drunken haze. Just while sleeping, like a normal person. That’s what you do, right, sleep? And then, a few weeks later, I did it again!
What. The. Hell.
Add that to the migraines when I’m around blinking lights, a nervous twitch when my sister visits, panic attacks when I, well, whenever – it just happens on the roller coaster of being untreated Bipolar. That’s not enough? Now this?
For fuck’s sake, I’m an adult. I’m married. I share a bed with a man and two dogs. I yell at my little dog for peeing on the kitchen floor, but at least she’s not doing it in the bed. (You should see the looks she gives me, by the way.)
The only two times it has happened – hopefully the only two times it will ever happen – the only commonality I can see is that I had nightmares. I get nightmares pretty frequently, especially when I’m shifting between ups and downs, so it’s not like I can say, “Oh, it was the nightmares which caused them!”
The first incident was in the early morning hours. I awoke to myself peeing and ran to the bathroom. I finished, showered, and continued on with my day. No sheets were wet, just my pj’s. I told the Hub and we passed it off as maybe I drank too much water before going to bed, and was in too deep a sleep to fully wake up. Or maybe I was getting an UTI.
But whatever, accidents happen. We never mentioned it again.
The second incident, a few weeks later, I happened to be sleeping on the couch. (So, maybe I lied. Maybe I peed the bed once and the couch once. Hah! So, I’ve only peed the bed once!) I woke up in a virtual puddle. Thank goodness we have dogs and my couch is stain-guarded so nothing really soaked in. I ran to the bathroom, but I had already drained everything; and it was a LOT.
There I was, soaked in pee, in my living room. I cleaned up myself and the couch, and change into something dry. This was 2:00 in the am. I hate being up at that time – we don’t have cable and nothing’s on. I just stood and stared at my couch, willing it to dry faster. The husband woke up and stumbled to the living room “Are you coming to bed?”
I had fallen asleep watching television (I heart The Nanny reruns).
I had to tell him what happened.
We talked about it.
Did I remember the nightmare? No.
Did I drink a lot of anything before I went to bed? No.
Is there pain? Could I be pregnant? Is that even a symptom?
Have I been feeling all right in the brain lately? Any issues maybe that are bothering me that weren’t before? No.
Nothing seems different. Panic attacks seem more frequent lately, and the migraines last longer. That could be because I’m shifting schedules – downs to ups, you know.
Nothing seems to be triggering this new symptom.
Maybe all my other symptoms increasing in number and intensity are just putting my body through hell. Maybe it’s a new thing. Maybe I’ll do it again. Maybe I won’t do it again until I can see a proper doctor (November 2nd). Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I just don’t know enough about bed-wetting to be sure about anything. (I’m not even sure it’s hyphenated.)
I do know something, though. I know I have someone special in my husband. I know that even after I had cleaned it all up, my husband cleaned the couch. He still waited a day or two to sit down on it. He was so nice about the whole situation, though. He worried about me, and what this new activity means for me. He said he was sorry my broken brain was making my body do crazy things.
To relieve the new anxiety I had facing bedtime, he even cracked a joke and offered to put me out with the dogs for a potty break before bed. No, really, I laughed. It’s all I could do. But I threatened I might pee on the couch again if he made me laugh too hard. And we laughed at that.
And then we went to bed, nervous about what the night might bring.
As a child of a covert narcissist, who spent every day breaking down any self-esteem I might accidentally grow, I was a prime target for my malignant narcissist of an ex-husband.
Keep in mind that there never has been and never will be an actual diagnosis for either my mother or my ex. Both fought like hell against any hint of therapy because there was nothing wrong with them, everything was my fault.
There are many stories, some I have already told, and this one, which I never thought would see the light of day.
I don’t even want to think about it, never mind discuss it with anyone. But people need to know that it exists, that it happens, and that it’s not OK.
I married my “high school sweetheart” AKA, a predator who targeted someone vulnerable 3 years his junior. Now, the age difference wouldn’t matter if we had been grown, mature adults. As a matter of fact, my current wonderful husband is 7 years older than me. But then, my ex was my first real boyfriend, and as I said earlier, I was raised in a dysfunctional family in which the normal was not normal.
I was taught to serve, to ignore my own needs in favour of other’s wants. I learned that I didn’t matter. I had no choices, no opinions of my own. I was a mirror.
And that continued throughout my marriage. I was perfectly broken and ready to be used.
From the beginning, he taught me that it was my fault if he was in pain. Physical, mental, financial, it was all my responsibility.
That continued into the bedroom.
Sex was not a loving act between two cherished partners, it was a power play. If he had a need, I was to fulfill it. If he had a desire, I was to play the part. Women were his enemies and only to be used. His porn addiction was out of control, and this was before the internet, so our bedroom was filled with falling down piles of the most degrading magazines he could get his hands on. I was only the receptacle, not the object of desire. I was too fat, too ugly and nothing about me was good enough.
He groomed me to be meek and accepting that he was the only one in the world who would ever put up with me and I needed to be grateful that I had him, because otherwise I would die alone. I was only acceptable as long as I did what I was told.
I was expected to be “ready and willing” at any time, any place, because you see, blue balls are fatal.
I bet you didn’t know that.
My sex education was brief at best, back in 1980ish and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t covered. As the years dragged on, I was barely even worth being a receptacle.
The worst part was when he…couldn’t.
That would bring the rage. That was when the worst times happened. If he couldn’t do it himself, he used whatever was at hand, including a police issued nightstick. He bought this illegally, as normal citizens aren’t allowed to have these in my country. This added to the thrill, I guess.
What it has done to me over the years has led to a deep fear of police. It’s not a straight line, there are many other stories involved, but that’s a biggie.
As a boring, law abiding middle-aged white woman, I actually have very few encounters with police officers. (Yeah, white privilege at work, sigh).
In the past few years, my PTSD has made me absolutely terrified of even the briefest encounter. Why it waited 20 years to fuck with my head like this, I have no idea, but my therapist does. I’ve been working on my fragile mental health for about 10 years now, one thing at a time, and she tells me that my brain will withhold things that I am not prepared to deal with yet. As I have gotten other things somewhat under control, my suicidal thoughts, my OCD, my anxiety, and depression have a little less hold on me. And then, slowly, over a few years, I found myself avoiding anyone in a uniform that might remind me. Whether a soldier, a police officer, or even a security guard if he has a nightstick or a gun, I will freeze and go into a panic attack.
This is interfering with my life dammit!
I am so angry at my stupid brain. I am absolutely terrified of getting stopped by the police, even for something benign.
What would I do?
My big fear is that I will bolt and not be able to communicate why I am acting erratically and get arrested. I fear my heart would stop, like a terrified rabbit caught in a trap. I
fear that I will have another nervous breakdown. I fear I would never recover.
But I’m working on it. I am going to beat it, I swear.
This particular mind-dragon is a powerful one, but not invincible. I have proven that over and over again in my recovery. I am worth the work, I deserve peace.
Session by session with my trauma therapist, day by day with my husband, we are all fighting for me. If you are reading this and you have experienced marital rape, you are worth it too! It’s not right, it’s not OK and it’s not your fault. Please use the resources here at The Band, and know that there are people who care and who can help.
Today, my heart is broken. Some people that touch your life just become part of your journey. Diontae and I met in the summer of 2015. He had transferred to Olive Branch as an Assistant Manager and I was a part-time head cashier. We were the new kids, so we closed together a lot. When you spend as much time with people as we did, you make connections.
Diontae became my work husband. We kidded about this all of the time, but we had each others backs. You all know the person. The one that you go to complain to so you don’t take the stress of the job home to your family. The person who just GETS the struggles of the day to day grind of your store. You learn each other’s kids names, talk about your families, dish about the newest gossip.
I thank the stars for him at that time in my life.
I left that store in April of 2017 for personal reasons. At the time, he was my direct supervisor. The first person I called when I walked out of my store was him, my work husband. He understood why I did what I did. Yet I felt horrible, because I was losing an important person in my life.
I came back to the same company in May of this year, just at a different store. The first time I called him for some information for a customer at my current store, he told me that my old position was open and that he wanted me back. Every time I spoke to him, he’d say the same thing.
Today my heart is broken.
My first work husband is dead. He left behind a daughter and a family that loved him deeply. He also left behind a work family that loved him wholeheartedly.
Today, the world is a little less bright without Diontae in it.
This weekend will kick-off further pictorial evidence of just how perfect my family is.
Click- Tonight Prince, the ten-year old, will have another baseball game where he is sure to steal home and score an imperative run to keep up the team’s winning streak and their first place position in the league.
Click- Tomorrow my husband will MC the antique car show that the local board of elected officials I sit on is hosting, while I hand out plaques to the runners of the 5k who donated money to the Disaster Victims in the next state.
Click- Sunday will be my husband’s birthday and Mother’s Day.
Click – Wednesday my oldest, my only daughter, will turn twenty-two.
Click- Thursday is Award’s Day at Prince’s elementary school, where he will no doubt again receive the school’s “Medal of Good Conduct Award,” and the coveted “Leadership Award,” since he is clearly the perfect child.
Click- Friday my oldest will graduate from University with her 3rd degree. Did I mention she has been to Congress and the United Nations?
We should probably dress in white shirts and head to the beach and find some grass and have pictures taken in the breeze. I mean, we are so very perfect, aren’t we?
I don’t understand why I haven’t written a book on how to be the perfect mother of perfect children. I should TOTALLY be on the cover of Perfect Magazine and stuff. GEEZ.
You know the way people don’t want to bring up cancer? Or say the name of a child that has passed away? The way “if we don’t talk about it, it won’t hurt as much.”
I have another child, “My Dude.” He is nineteen years old. I love him. I don’t call him “My Dude,” because it sounds cool, I do this because I hope one day he will be able to apply for a job and his future employers won’t google him and see the things I have written about his struggles; my shitty job raising him.
He is from me. He is mine. He is just as much as the other two are, and I WILL NOT be taking a family freaking portrait until he is in it. I don’t care if he’s wearing a tin foil hat in that portrait; we will wear matching tin foil hats, dammit.
My Dude was missing for a bit and yesterday on my “humor blog,” I lost my mind. I posted about my mental breakdown. The lovelies from BB2G came flying in and offered to let me vent here.
In addition to a kazillion other people on the internet who sent me virtual hugs and pulled me from the mental pool of snot and self pity and fear, I wanted to personally thank you.
I am not a strong mom. I am just a mom. A screwed-up, flying-by-the-seat-of-my-probably-on backwards-who-knows-thong. Second guessing every move but acting damn sure of myself in front of the shorter people. Arguing with the hired help (The Doctors). Trying to help My Dude battle the demons only he can see. So when you think I am strong, remember I freak out 1 day out of 365.
He and others with mental illness live with it, 24/7, 365.
I cannot imagine that hell.
So to every mother who feels judged, feels like a failure, who has a kid that is overstimulated and screaming and kicking, who is glared at by strangers, sitting in a car line, wanting to give up or just to run away, I need you to know this. Please take it to heart.
When you look out of the window and see that perfect family with the perfect kids and the perfect house; the family that looks like they just stepped out of the magazine; they are just as broken and off-balance as the rest of us. We are all broken beings surviving the best we can. It really is all we can do.
No matter what your battle, please remember you are not alone.
An intro: Judgmental people are my pet peeve. The event that precipitated this Letter happened 5 years ago, and as badly as I would like to let the entire world know about these people, I have changed all names to protect the guilty.
Dear Ex Sister-In-Law:
You don’t know me and we’ve never met. I’m Evil Stepmother #3. For the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing your sister and her son, Lucifer. Thank you so much for not only the note you sent acknowledging the flowers we sent for your mother’s funeral, but also the note addressed to Forever Man laying out your concern for our family’s spiritual health.
It was so kind of you to let us know how evil we are. We had no idea! I’ll bet the dictionary has a picture of you next to the definition for “thoughtful.”
We really didn’t mean to ruin your mother’s funeral. My sympathy for your loss was very real, believe it or not. I did meet your mother on several occasions when we picked up or dropped off Lucifer for visitation. She treated Lucifer’s younger half-brother like a blood grandson. I don’t know whether you, as a mother yourself, can begin to imagine what that small act of kindness meant to me.
Having lost my dad and grandmother during the holiday season, I understand more than you might think. But, given your little note, I’m now left wondering how such a kind, caring woman could possibly have raised such assholes for daughters.
You said in your note that you “feel sorry for my children?”
Maybe you should focus more on your own children.
I totally understand your normal, human reaction to need to blame someone for the chaos that surrounded your mother’s visitation. But you know, my normal human reaction is: who the fuck do you think you are telling my family that we need to get right with God?
Who died and made you the Judge of the Entire Fucking Universe? You don’t know the half of what you think you know. If your opinion was even partially based on facts, we might agree on a few areas in need of improvement. But it’s obvious that you are judging from a position of ignorance. Remember that Bible verse about how knowing the truth shall set you free?
Here’s some truth for you: your sister Saint D and Lucifer are assholes.
You don’t owe me anything, and I don’t need your forgiveness. But if you really feel like you need to blame someone or judge intentions, you should blame me, not Forever Man. Why?
Because I exist.
Because I am the latest Evil Stepmother. Because Saint D never expected a sibling to take the focus off of Lucifer. Because I agreed with FM, Saint D and Evil Stepfather #2 (her live-in boyfriend) that it was unacceptable behavior to flunk out of school and live in an online fantasy world. That it was unacceptable behavior to disregard personal hygiene. To be disrespectful. To not apologize when you’re wrong. To not help fix things you broke. To not right wrongs. To lie when it suited your purpose. To be ungrateful for the opportunities and help you’ve received, all freely given even when you didn’t deserve it.
In a nutshell, there must be someone to blame always when something goes awry with the Upbringing of the Crotch Parasite (love you AB!). That someone is always either the ex or the stepparent. Another truth for you: Lucifer is a parasite and so is his mother.
This is, incidentally, an insult to ticks, maggots and tapeworms.
What the hell ever happened to “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”
Did it never occur to you that there is something inherently unfair about judging someone without first asking for their side of the story?
Yes, life is not fair and the benefit of the doubt does not apply to divorce. If there are children involved, you are doubly screwed, no matter how good your intentions are, how hard you try, or how much you love them. You accused FM of treating Saint D “disgustingly” after the divorce. We should all be so lucky to live in a world where “disgusting” means loving your child so much that you would willing stick yourself with paying all the bills on two houses, alimony, college tuition for two (ultimately useless) degrees, child support (even when it should have been reduced or stopped), extra cash beyond that, legal bills to defend a constant stream of court actions, and personal attacks directed at FM’s employers and siblings.
You’d be quick to condemn anyone else who used their child for money and sympathy.
To be honest, I’m tired of hearing the stories. It’s not a fucking competition to see who had it worst.
If only my ex had treated me so badly!
When Preacher B divorced me, I was supposed to feel privileged that I was “allowed” my freedom. I got no child support, even though Preacher was the only father Number One Son had ever known. There was no settlement or alimony. I got no share of all the property gained – cars, land, home, camping trailers, royalties – because I willingly worked my ass off as a helpmeet, while being spiritually and sexually abused in the special hell known as fundamentalist Christian patriarchy.
I was shunned by my church family.
I got nothing because I believed in educating my God-given brain. That divorce was the best Christmas present I ever received, even though it meant starting from nothing (for a second time) as a single parent. I tried to fit into, to trust new church families – Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, unaffiliated, you name it . When I was brave enough to tell my story, I can’t count the number of fine moral upstanding Christian eyes which glazed over and I became invisible again.
They have to answer for it, not me. I am not ashamed of being a survivor. I kicked stigma in the crotch.
Me! Fuck you.
All these years, FM has held his tongue, because it wasn’t anyone else’s business. Problem is, Saint D has been sharing her opinion loudly, indiscriminately and constantly for the twenty-five-plus years since the divorce. We’ve all heard her side of it.
But consider this: we have a big-ass storage bin full of court papers and check registers – it weighs about 75 pounds – to prove that the story Saint D has been feeding you all these years is a veritable cornucopia of bullshit. All for sympathy. If it weren’t for Saint D’s lawyer getting his license revoked for soliciting a prostitute, we’d probably still be tied up in a court action for something.
Forever Man is also a survivor.
I think Saint D and Lucifer have had a pretty privileged existence. Saint D’s repeated financial and emotional vengeance for the privilege of being divorced from her, even now twenty. five. fucking. years. later, is what is disgusting here. Saint D has elevated martyrdom to both a science and an art form, and passed it along to Lucifer, who has internalized the constant stream of complaints, lies, and dad-bashing since he was a toddler. This is what you’re calling values?
Rational people would call it child abuse. It is a travesty of justice that the family court consistently sided with her simply because she bears a c-section scar. Unfortunately for FM, having possession of a big-ass Bin-O-Facts does not mean justice. Joint custody and the privilege of being bankrupted maybe, but not justice.
So, let’s change gears and talk about what happened on visitation day, shall we? For the record, FM made travel arrangements with Lucifer two days before the visitation. Given the weather forecast (winter storm watch), we offered to bring Lucifer with us, mostly because we thought it would be helpful to Saint D. Because, you know, compassion. When someone dies, that’s what you’re supposed to do. We thought of her, even with the hell we’ve been through with her. Offering to help someone who’s brought FM nothing but misery for nearly forty years, since he was 18 years old?
Yeah, FM and I are the dictionary definition of assholes.
Just so we’re clear here: the ensuing crisis wasn’t because FM made any rash, selfish, last-minute decisions. Lucifer was the one with anger issues; he couldn’t handle the thought of two specific riders occupying space in the same car with him and FM. The crisis was caused because Lucifer has the social and reasoning skills of a two year old parasite. Oops, I forgot. It’s my fault because I should have known how inappropriate it was for me and Little Brother to offer FM moral support, since it was also his loss. Lucifer’s full transformation into Satan couldn’t have happened at a better time.
Last we knew, Satan had a car and a job. He could have driven himself, if he’d wanted to. Surely you could come up with a better excuse than we ruined the funeral because Satan’s mother had to drive over and pick him up!
Here’s another truth for you: Satan is an equal-opportunity hater; he hates all of you, just like he hates us. He was looking for an excuse not to attend, but one that wouldn’t look like he was deliberately trying to avoid seeing his family. You’d have thought he would have covered his ass better. I mean, come on now, most rational adult humans would have the presence of mind to reschedule a doctor appointment on the day of a close relative’s funeral. Especially since it took four days to make funeral arrangements.
It sure was awfully convenient to manufacture a crisis, blame the whole mess on FM and get out of attending a funeral. Unfortunately for Satan’s sake, we got the EOB for the doctor’s visit a few weeks later. Yes, Satan’s still on our insurance, which is by the way, just another of those nice things we do for him even though he wishes we were all dead.
We’re going to hell for sure.
When I emailed Saint D to let her know that we wouldn’t be able to come, she said that Satan had been expecting time alone with his dad.
See, another truth you need to know is that Satan has not once, in the twenty. five. fucking. years. since the divorce, asked his dad for “alone time.” “Alone time” is Saint D’s code for marginalizing Evil Stepmothers. Satan has our phone number and emails. He could get “alone time” anytime. We haven’t heard a word from Satan since that cold, snowy December day five years ago.
Yeah, we’re awful, valueless, evil personified. We’ve invited Satan over every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, anytime just because, since he moved out of our house ten years ago. Well, not for the last three years because we moved to another state and since he doesn’t speak to us, we didn’t tell him we were moving. When FM handed him the check containing his college fund and helped him move into the dorms at Big State University nine years ago, Satan’s last words to him were, “Well, be sure to let me know when this one ends in divorce, like all the others.”
As long as there was money flowing from the First Bank of Dad no questions asked, everything was fine. Until there were questions, like why he flunked out of BSU, which required thousands of dollars more to settle the final bill, which resulted in Satan’s faking a crisis to get everyone off his case. I know. See, awful nasty jerk that I am, I sat there in the ER waiting room, trying to keep everyone calm. I provided the insurance information. I made sure his prescriptions were filled. I brought clothes and other stuff to the mental ward for him. I offered to let Satan come back to our home until his apartment was ready, because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.
He didn’t seem to have a problem choosing a comfy warm bed and home-cooked meals over sleeping under a bridge. I figured out before the doctors did that it was a giant snow job. But I let it go. Yeah, more reason to hate me, since I’m a terrible, evil, valueless person for caring. He didn’t say “thank you” when he left.
He didn’t say “good bye” to his little brother. Fucking parasite.
You spoke of values. Little Brother certainly learned some important lessons about values, courtesy of your family, for which we cannot thank you enough. Like being born is the only qualification necessary for hating someone. How do you explain that to an eight-year-old child? That compassion, honesty, forgiveness and reconciliation are not in every family’s vocabulary. That families define “family” differently; no one considered it inappropriate for Saint D’s boyfriend to attend the visitation. That it’s acceptable to talk out of both sides of your mouth if it suits your purpose. Which is it: “inappropriate” or “alone time”? I would suggest neither, but who am I to judge if being petty, vindictive and immature makes someone feel better? We heard over and over, “it’s not fair!”
Little Brother understands the concept of fairness, you know. You made him cry. You people are despicable.
I’ve been calling bullshit on Satan for the 14 years I’ve known him, but telling a parent he has to choose between his children? Him or me? A child is not a paint color, a new car or a bag of potatoes. This was cruel, monstrous, despicable, evil beyond reason. I would say I hope Saint D and Satan both burn in hell, but I’m not sure I believe in hell anymore. Why do we need “Hell” when we have family? It seems to accomplish the same purpose.
So, in closing and just in case I wasn’t clear, it’s a really good thing that I’m not God, because if judgment and justice were left up to me, the Plagues of Egypt, the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, would be too lenient for your whole fucking family. You say you “don’t pretend to know [our] beliefs.” Then please do yourself a favor and save the lecture about getting “right with your Maker” because you might end up next to me in the hellhole you mentioned in your note and that would be even worse karma than occupying it with FM.
Until then, I wish you a lovely bouquet of Mushroom Prints. Asshole.
The Evil Stepmother #3
I have spent the majority of my life feeling like a living, breathing, science project. I remember spending a good portion of my childhood in the hospital.
My asthma is further compounded by a congenital defect in my bronchial tubes referred to as ‘pig bronchus.” My life-threatening allergic reactions; seriously who the f*ck is allergic to tomatoes of all things? Tomatoes by the way, are in almost EVERYTHING. Or my surgeries, of which I’ve had one surgery per year.
The endometriosis, which I was told in high school I may not be able to have children. The endometriosis is probably why my periods are two weeks long.
Or other random shit that happens to me.
I almost died on three separate occasions – twice coded as an infant before the doctors discovered one of two major congenital birth defects. That one was an anominant artery – my aorta was crossed over my trachea – and once after surgery when I was eleven and Nurse Dumbass gave me too much morphine and put me into respiratory arrest.
Every time it seems like I’m coming out on top, something inevitably drags me back down, reminding me: ‘hey @$$hole, let’s not forget that you’re the bubble girl.’
As hard as it is, though, I’ve decided that no one is allowed to feel bad for me. I’ve had almost thirty years of that, and it really doesn’t accomplish much. I’ve decided that when life pushes me, I’m going to push the f*ck back, because I’m no one’s bitch.
Here from my aforementioned blog is a little gem I call “On The Contrary” written by moi.
Two congenital birth defects
They said ‘She won’t’
Life threatening allergy & exercise induced asthma
They said ‘Never’
I finished two 5K races
19 surgeries in 28 years
Won’t slow me down
Diagnosed with Endometriosis in high school
I was told ‘Unlikely’
Their names are Michael Julien and Mýa Renée
Years of unhealthy and abusive relationships
I was blessed with him
14 years of unhealthy eating, skewed body image and relentless self doubt
I got focused
Three cancer scares
I’m still here
They told me that ‘you won’t’
I said ‘I will’
They told me ‘you can’t’
JUST WATCH ME.
LIFE IS SHORT. LIGHT A FIRE UNDER ITS ASS!!!
He is my “brother.”
Or, to put it more aptly, my “street brother.”
Even more accurately, he was my drug dealer. When my then-fiance went to jail, he took care of me by making me his full-time driver. Shortly before my man “B” went in, our dealer “J” began referring to me as his “sister.” He had quite a few “sisters” surrounding him – none related by blood. One of the first times J and I were alone together (ever), I told him that if he wanted me to be his sister, and wanted me to consider him family, I’d take that seriously; it would be a big deal to me.
He said he understood and agreed.
B was arrested within a few days of that conversation. J was my first call. He told me to come over. At the time, I still had a drivers’ license and a legal vehicle with insurance. He kept me by his side pretty much 24/7 for the next 6 days.
Unfortunately, 6 days later, we were arrested together, in that vehicle. He was absconding from his probation officer and was charged with Intent to Distribute (with Priors) among other things. I was charged with DUI and possession – since it was my first arrest in this state (and my prior out-of-state record had been expunged), I was released after being booked in. He and I sat together in booking before he was dressed out. That was the last time I saw his face. My brother. 10 1/2 months it was until I saw him again.
He hadn’t written down my number when he was booked in. Having done as much county time as he had, with no one writing to him or paying for phone calls from him, he hadn’t seen the point. I promised to write him a letter when I got home that night including my phone number. When the phone rang 5 or 6 days later and the automated voice announced his name, I grinned and accepted the call immediately. I could hear the tentativeness in his voice when I answered. He hadn’t expected me to pick up.
Two or three weeks later, J was transported to The Point, which is the nickname for Utah State Prison’s main campus – so called because it’s location is directly across I-15 from “The Point of the Mountain”, which is the dividing line between our two most populated counties – Salt Lake County (home of Salt Lake City) and Utah County (home of BYU).
I alternated letters, keeping greeting cards and stationary and stamps in my purse at all times. When I finished a letter to B, I began one to J and vice-versa. B remained in County Jail and I spoke to him often, though the calls were expensive and the cost became prohibitive. I didn’t hear from J for almost 2 months.
Utah Department of Corrections has a You Tube Channel with a series of orientation videos for Friends and Family. I watched them all.
J’s first stop was “R&O” – basically Intake. While in R&O, he was not given an opportunity to contact the outside world and had almost zero commissary privileges. For a first-time inmate, R&O typically is 4-6 weeks while the staff evaluates the inmate’s compliancy, ability to understand and follow rules, evaluates their educational and programming needs and determines their long-term housing assignment.
The Point has different areas for drug offenders vs. gang members vs. violent criminals etc. Female inmates spend far less time in R&O typically as they only have one housing area for women. The other option available to inmates is to “County-Out”. Basically, the Utah Prison system is over-crowded and so several of the smaller counties with available jail space house prison inmates on a contract. Many inmates prefer staying in a County environment (whether that’s a housing preference or they prefer fewer cellmates or they like the availability of programs like “Getting Out” which is a communication option at some counties that is unavailable at the Point). Other inmates prefer staying in the main prison (or it’s sister facility in Gunnison) – commissary and phone calls being cheaper and the guarantee of jobs and/or programs to fill the hours.
After R&O, J went to Promontory aka The Conquest Program, which is the drug treatment program inside Utah State Prison for men (Women have a version called Excel). While in Conquest, he did not have the ability to have a paid job (inmate labor is underpaid – between 65 cents and $1.75 an hour – for anything from working in the kitchen, organizing and distributing commissary orders, working in the cafe open to the public, administrative jobs, custodial work, groundskeeping, maintenance) because of the nature of the Program, but he did become a Trustee (which is a position of authority within the housing section including responsibility for keeping the Unit clean, distributing meals) and in addition to nearly completing the program, he managed to earn his High School Diploma.
In Utah, when a person is sentenced to Prison, the trial court judge does not have the authority to limit or govern the length of the prison stay. A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of 0-5 years in prison. A second-degree = 1-15 years, a 1st degree = 5 years – Life and then there’s the “Super-First” which is, I believe either 15 or 25 years to life. Once a person is convicted and in prison, a different agency – The Board of Pardons and Parole (BOP), assumes jurisdiction over the inmate.
The BOP sets a hearing date for each inmate based upon his/her convictions – a 3rd degree felon will see the Board after 3 months (+/- depending on backlog); a 2nd degree, after 6 months and a 1st degree after 18 months (It’s unclear to me whether persons convicted of a “Super First” ever have the option to parole. J’s hearing was held approximately 7 months after he arrived at The Point. A few weeks after the formal hearing, the Board renders its decision – usually including a potential release date.
Here’s the thing: there’s a TON of bullshit rules about prison.
The first one I learned: inmates cannot have pictures of themselves. My first letter to J got returned because I enclosed a bunch of pics of him and me, him and his girl, etc. Just sent back. Letter too.
Next: persons on probation cannot visit the prison – in fact, if you have a misdemeanor conviction within the last 7 years, you cannot visit the prison (except to see family members).
“Family” is strictly defined. To be approved to visit someone you claim as family, included with your visiting application must be documentation of the relationship (i.e. a marriage license, both birth certificates showing a parent in common). So much for visiting my “brother.”
Putting money on an inmates books (so they can order items from the commissary for themselves) comes with substantial fees (about $6 added to whatever amount you’re giving them).
Phone calls are WAY cheaper from the prison than from the jail (depending on the jail). When B called, I was charged 29 cents a minute when I funded a prepaid account (each time I added funds to the account, there was a $3 surcharge). When J called, it was 10 cents a minute (also with a surcharge but still.)
J saw the Board after about 7 months and his tentative release date was set for two months later – March 28. Here’s the thing about that: because he would be paroling (as opposed to “term-ing” or terminating), Adult Probation & Parole had to pre-approve any address he wanted to reside at. This meant a parole officer would have to call and verify that J could stay there and perform a check of the place (to ensure it met parole requirements – no alcohol or firearms on the property) before his release could be confirmed.
An inmate without an address to go to has to wait an additional 6-12 weeks for a bed to open up at one of the halfway houses before being released.
Here’s the other thing:
Being a person willing to receive letters/calls from inmates immediately subjects you to A TON of requests.
Since J went up, I have written to several other friends who were sent up to prison as well.
Universally, they all want you to do something for them (and often for their friends as well). J had me send texts and make calls to his buddies’ wives and/or girlfriends who couldn’t afford to take calls, write to other buddies who had no one writing to them, put money on his books if I could. Another friend of mine, a woman, beginning her third stint at the Point, included messages from her friends for me to forward, requested magazine subscriptions, requested that I send blank greeting cards and silver rings from WalMart that she could sell to her fellow inmates… and yet another friend (without asking me first) enclosed a letter from his buddy to his buddy’s girl for me to forward. J was the only one whose requests I did my best on.
But healthy boundaries are TANTAMOUNT when you have a locked-up loved one.
Of course, when J received his March 28 tentative release date, his immediate request was for me to find him a place to go. I was on probation by then (making me ineligible), plus I was homeless and living in a shelter (a very comfortable shelter but not one I could receive him to) at the time. He submitted the address of his mother’s trailer and asked me to call her and tell her to please hide the beer and the gun so AP&P would approve the address and could he please stay there etc etc.
Did I mention I hadn’t ever met his mother?
Her first question: “Well, couldn’t he stay with you guys?”
She told the parole officer when he called that there was beer and a gun at the trailer so that option was gone.
J called me, despondent, asking me to try to find someone.
Finally, I asked my probation officer for sober living properties in the area that might help. He referred me to a place. I submitted J’s application online myself (he dictated the answers to me on a phone call). I committed to paying $500 before his release to pay his first two weeks’ rent and the application fee. I put up with bullshit flirting from the Program Director.
But I secured the address, submitted it to AP&P and got it approved.
The street sister.
Here’s the other thing about inmates:
You get a lot of promises about what they will do once they’re out.
Pay you back.
Make it up to you.
Change their Ways.
J promised me a lot of shit.
He was released March 28. The Program Director picked him up from the prison and (despite some crazy drama culminating in my emailing the dude’s boss) B & I were allowed to go to the Sober Living and see J the day he got out. An ex-girlfriend of his gave us a ride up there. She was clearly wanting/expecting to be the center of J’s attention. She turned a little green when I was.
J went through his property bags that day. His prison-issued Bible, his court papers, the one letter he had received from the ex-girlfriend, the one from another girl and the three foot-high stacks of cards and letters from me.
I’m still proud of the way I held my brother down while he was away. I’m proud of him for staying sober since the day he and I got arrested almost 18 months ago. Better than I’ve done.
But I’m supremely disappointed in him.
He and I don’t talk anymore. He prefers to help out buddies who use him and his goodwill – even though they are still using drugs. Buddies who jeopardize his parole status for their own reasons. The girlfriend who told the cops the drugs in my car at our arrest were his – then lied to everyone on the streets about he and I for months, never wrote to him or anything, cheated on him, but when she lost her kids a couple of weeks ago (due to continuing to get high on heroin after a 90 day inpatient program), sitting with her was more important than trying to help me through a hospitalization.
It hurts to admit, but the fact is that people in prison are different than the people they were before or return to being after their incarceration. I loved my brother in prison. I will always love him in so many ways. But I don’t like him out here. And I can’t allow myself to be used by him anymore.
I have ended all contact with incarcerated persons except my now-husband, B, (who is back in county again *sigh*) and I have made an exception for his best friend. I have changed my phone number. I have blocked almost everyone on facebook. J isn’t blocked, yet. I did “Snooze” him for 30 days. it was too painful seeing his comments to lowlifes and dumbasses I know to be still hustling.
The last post of his I saw was that his PO has told him that if he continues to do well he will terminate parole successfully at the end of April.
Well done, Bro. Proud of you. Wish I didn’t know for a fact that you could have gone back to prison at least twice for breaking the terms of your parole. Not getting caught isn’t exactly what you should be striving for here.
Wish I had a way to show you how much danger I can see you’re in.
I wish prison weren’t a revolving door.
And even if you manage not to go back in the next 5 months +/-, I wish I could be convinced that you understood what REAL priorities are, what REAL friendship should be, what REAL family does for each other.
It’s only a matter of time before it happens.
It might be in a tweet.
Or an email to one of the kids’ teachers.
Or at the end of a post.
Or in a comment on another writer’s blog.
Or in a memo to parents.
Or in a letter note to the pastor
Most likely it will be in a text.
Yeah, that’s the most likely, in a text, and without appropriate relational context, like to a parent of a kid spending the night over with one of mine.
It’s really a more a question of when, not if.
Cuz I’m the mother who already accidentally hit Reply All instead of Reply and thanked The Husband, “For the most sweet and gentle of kisses,” to all the parents in The Boy’s then third-grade class.
And I’m the mother who drove to the wrong soccer field twice in the same week.
I’m also the mom who misquotes her own children’s birth dates at the doctors office.
So, now that I have adopted the “xoxo” as part of my email closing to intimates, it’s simply a matter of time.
In order to save time, may I preemptively say:
xoxo to the kids’ principal.
xoxo to the lawn care service that sent us a job quote.
xoxo to the mom who wrote for help with the fencing car pool.
xoxo to the volunteer coordinator.
xoxo to the grocery store credit card slip.
xoxo on the kindergartener’s reading log.
xoxo on the field trip permission form.
xoxo on the Friday folder.
Every Friday, Band Back Together runs an advice column, in which our (wise) readers help you answer the questions you need answered.
Now let’s get our advice on:
I know this may seem weird or stupid, but I think my parents are bullying me.
Let me explain why I believe they are bulling me.
The whole situation began about two years ago.
(Background: I am a 23 year old who loves technology.)
To attempt to cut a long story short, our house used to be filthy; and I mean filthy. How filthy? Well, there was actual black mold growing on walls. And with that mold, came mold mites, tiny white mites feeding on my technology.
So I went in to a panic and cleaned, sanitised, and vacuumed my stuff and desk. I wrapped anything that I wasn’t using into sealed bags: I did NOT want these buggers on feeding on my things.
Since that incident I think that I’ve developed OCD, although I’ve not been medically diagnosed, but now I clean my stuff everyday, in perpetual fear of mites.
I explained this to my family and they know why I’ve developed OCD. They have witnessed the mites. And I’ve asked that they do not let anyone near my room or stuff.
But for the past two years, they keep saying I am unwell, or I need to see a doctor. Like this is my fault.
My parents also put filthy items on my desk despite that I’ve asked them not to. They’ll also move my stuff around or put it on the dirty carpet
My OCD has gotten worse due to my parents interfering and I think they’re doing it just to get a reaction from me. Once I blow up, they blame me and call me “crazy.”
I just don’t know what to do anymore: I feel depressed and alone. I’ve really starting to think they are right. Maybe I am crazy.
I should also note: my fiancee says it’s my family that’s causing me to clean more due to their interference.
Yet I’m married, have four amazing kids and a dog. Yet, I am so lonely that it sometimes feels like my chest will explode.
I used to have friends. I used to be the life of the party. I was always the one that did the crazy stunts or stayed up for two days drinking and having a good time. I used to have a great marriage, and the kids and I always had fun and went and explored.
But then I lost everything.
Money, cars, my house, my mobility, my health. I became disabled in September of 2005. I won’t go into all the boring details but let’s just say that I will be lucky to be able to walk in a few years, even if the rate of progression stays slow like it is now.
I lost almost every friend.
People I had always been there for. People I loved, loaned money to, made soup for when they were sick, gave a shoulder to cry on, etc. Yet, at a pretty steady pace, all these people no longer cared about me. I could no longer party, no longer stay up late, no longer hike or camp with them, no longer go on long car rides. So they replaced me or just stopped calling.
Yet I could have still had a glass of wine with them or played video or board games; shit man I even knit. Yet it wasn’t good enough. And like a fool, I called, emailed, texted and IM’d all of them all the time. No response. Instead, I torture myself by reading their Facebook posts. I see the pictures of them having fun and hanging out, hugging and laughing. I see them interacting and carrying on like I never existed. It hurts. It hurts so bad that I cry a few times a week as I look at the pictures and see the joy in their face.
But what about my wife you say?
My wife has since become a roommate. She has had a long term affair with another man and acted like it was no big deal when I found out. She is never home and leaves me here with the kids all day every day. She can go three or four days without saying more than a single word to me and the kids. I’ve been with her since I was 17 years old. I’m now 33. So that makes the heart hurt worse, the tears burn a bit more and the darkness just that little bit thicker.
The kids, four boys who I live and would die for, try and understand. They don’t, and I don’t want them to know it all. It would scare them. They don’t get why I can’t give them piggy back rides, wrestle with them or just sit on the floor and play. So they aren’t around much. They go to my mom’s house to play over there, go to their friends’ house, or sit in their rooms and play games on the computer. They see the pharmacy on my night stand and see me cry out in pain. They’ve seen me fall down and they’ve seen me in the hospital.
And that, my invisible internet friends? That makes it all hurt so much more than anything that’s ever been done to me.
I sit here day after day. I look out the same window and wonder what other people are doing. I wonder if my name ever comes up in conversation or if people see old pictures of me and ask what happened to me.
I wonder if I will ever have somebody to sit with and tell them how I feel? Someone I can cry to and explain my fears to. Someone I can laugh with, and for just a minute forget what my life has become. Someone who will hold my hand, or brush a stray hair from my cheek or maybe a rouge tear or two, or many.
I want to feel again. I want to smile and laugh. I want to feel wanted and appreciated and not cold and angry.
So, I sit here. I write these words. Maybe a person or two will read this. In the end though, none of my old friends will read this. None of them will realize how bad they’ve hurt me. My wife will never change, and it’s too late for that anyway. The divorce papers are sitting in my sock drawer, waiting to be signed.
I never would have thought that the final years of my cut-short life would be spent in such physical and emotional pain. I never knew that loneliness would seem like it’s killing me faster than any disease and disability could.
This is just me venting. This is a great way to express what I really feel, without having to keep it all bottled up. If I had to keep this bottled up, it would drive me down, it would pull me under. I can’t let that happen. I have to be able to find small joys in life, like singing to the kids, making fun of Jenny McCarthy, and just living life to the best of my ability!
I love this site and the writers on here. You all are amazing people, and Aunt Becky is my hero!
(ed note: I love you. I’m glad you wrote this out. We’re all here for you. xo, AB)