The Monster That Hid Behind the Mask

***GRAPHIC CONTENT ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE AT RISK FOR A TRIGGER. PLEASE MOVE FORWARD WITH CAUTION.***

I close my eyes and I can visualize you perfectly. The way that you would smirk. The way that your hair fell to the side. The way that you would grab your stomach while you laughed. The way that you smelled. The way that I could feel your energy whenever I was near you. 

You had this way of making every girl fall in love with you, which was remarkable because you were never that attractive. You weren’t physically or emotionally desirable, and yet, I wanted you. I wanted to know what it would feel like to hear you say “I love you.” I wanted to feel that static that one would feel when you held hands with someone you cared about. I wanted to feel the electricity that would build up between our lips as you kissed me. 

You used to make me feel so incredibly special. I met you before I was even a teenager, and I know that the moment you saw me was the moment that I became your next target. What I thought was love was manipulation, and what I thought was good intent ended up having ulterior motives. 

I was vulnerable with you. I cried in front of you. You comforted me when I needed comfort. What I thought was safety was actually me falling into the hands of a monster. 

You see, as I grew older, I realized that those moments of sincerity were moments of secrecy. You knew what you wanted and went for it under the disguise of someone who cared. The older I have become I have realized that what I thought was you being genuine was you training me and molding me to be your next victim. You always wanted something of mine that was never meant to be yours, and you were willing to do whatever it took it take it. 

So you used your best weapons against me. I was no match against your manipulation. I was not prepared to mentally handle what was about to happen. I was too naive to decipher your words that ended up being lies. 

I was never a person to you. I was always just a body. 

Someone hurt me before you did. And I went to you after it happened. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to find out that someone got to me before you did. Oh, how it must have angered you. You had been working on me for years, and you expected something for your efforts. 

So you decided to take your reward because you must have felt by this time it was now or never. You did things leading up to the event, testing me to see what I was willing to do. Seeing where my comfort was. I was emotionally driven by your lies, but I was nowhere near ready to take things where you wanted them to go. So you took that upon yourself. 

When I close my eyes I can feel you. I can feel your face less than an inch away from mine. I can feel your breath. I can feel my body go ice cold. I can feel my body wanting to run, but unable to move. I can feel that feeling that I felt in my stomach like I was about to be sick. I can feel the fear. The terror. I can feel your hand going up my leg in an effort to touch me. I can taste your finger going into my mouth, and I can hear you say “suck.” I can feel you grab me to touch you. I can feel and remember everything as if it were happening right now. I hate you for that. 

People assault people because they like the control. They like the game. He manipulated and trained me for years to be his puppet, and sadly, he won the game. 

I still dream of him. I still wake up with drenched in sweat. I still wake up filled to the brim with panic. 

Sometimes he slips into my mind and I just freeze. I can feel my body go ice cold. And there is nothing that I can do about it except just try to get through it. 

I am trying my best to release the grip that you have had on me for all of these years. Oh, how I have been trying. 

I hate you for what you did and who you are, but I take comfort in knowing that karma exists. Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, you will suffer as I have, and that brings a smile to my face.

Breathe

I died on August 27th,1862. My wife held me as I took my last breath, while still attempting to save my life by holding her hands over my stab wounds. The last thing I heard her say was: “John! No, God no give him back to me! John!” I closed my eyes, saw black, and then that was that. An unknown amount of time later, I woke up, remembered that I had died, and then broke myself out of a wooden casket that was laid to rest six feet under the ground. It was difficult breaking myself out of the box and digging myself out from under the earth, but not needing to breathe made things a bit easier. 

According to a newspaper that I later saw lying on the ground, I arose on the date August 27th, 1863. I walked towards things that were familiar. Everything looked the same. The sun was starting to set, and the moon was ready and willing to take its place. The crickets were having their nightly conversations, the rats were running around scavenging for sustenance, and the locals were gathered at the town pub for their daily ale and drunken shenanigans. It appears that life never halted when I died, but I never would have expected it to. 

I walked the uneven cobblestone road until I found my desired location. Home. It was nothing to be proud of, for it was a humble dwelling, but it was home nonetheless. I stood there just looking at it. It was exactly the same as it was the last time I saw it. Well, with one exception. If you peered through the front window a year ago you would have seen a married couple in complete bliss. We would have been dancing to the sound of nothing, just to our bliss. We would have been sitting in our chairs near the fireplace reading the daily paper while listening to the wood crackle and the flames turned it to ash. You would have seen me unexpectedly grab her and ever so gently kiss her forehead, cheeks, nose, and then her lips. We had love in that house. Now all I see is pain and agony. I see her sitting by the fireplace, but there is no fire. There is no daily paper. All she is doing is sitting in what used to be my chair with what used to be my blanket just staring at nothing. Watching a home that used to be so lively now feeling so desolate of any form of happiness was something that I could no longer bear to witness, so I started to walk up to the front door. 

I knocked. Although this used to be our home, this was her home now. The wait for her to open the door was the most anxiety I have felt in a long while. I haven’t felt this on edge since August 27th, 1862. I could hear her walking to the door, with each creak in the floorboards telling me she was one step closer. Then the door was suddenly open, and I saw her for the first time in a year. 

We just stared at one another. There was shock, grief, doubt, and confusion in her eyes. All I felt was the need to hold her. 

John?” She said with an immense amount of disbelief. 

“Yes, my love. Oh, how I have missed you…” I took a step forward to her, and with my arms reached outward ready for an embrace, she took three steps back. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course, this would be her initial reaction. Her dead husband, alive a year after his fatal stabbing. 

“I don’t know what magicks you have used, but if you think I am going to fall for this trick you surely are mad. Get out of my house. NOW.”

At this point, I could see the fury in her eyes. She was sobbing, shivering from this overwhelming emotion. What am I supposed to say to her to convince her that it was truly me? 

“Hazel, my dear, I cannot imagine what the sight of me must have you feeling. Believe me when I say when I woke up in that wooden box beneath the earth I was struck with a profound sensation myself. What can I say to you to help you? What can I do? What do you need from me?” I was desperate at this point. I just wanted her to know, and believe, that it was truly me. Resurrected from the dead. I found myself on my knees, just pleading for her to listen. She just stood there. Looking at me in terror. 

“My John died one year ago today, right here, in this very room. A rabid woman came in and stabbed him in the chest more times than I count with a rusty old knife. His blood was everywhere, in fact, the stains are underneath this rug. I felt his last breath leave his lungs as I tried to hold his wounds shut with my bare hands. I laid there, on top of his corpse, for hours until the coroner forced me to back away so that they could take his body away from our home. I lived through his death. I have grieved his passing, and I have spent countless hours talking to him at his grave. And you have the audacity to come into my home with your magicks and pretend like you are my dead husband back from the grave? You disgust me.” She was hysterical at this point. She was full of rage and had tears rolling down her face. She spat at me and then walked into the kitchen and sat at the table. 

“I will not tell you again, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!

And so I left, not saying a word, feeling lost. I don’t know what I expected, but surely that was not it. In the life before my ultimate death, I was never the most clever man, and it appears that that fact about me has remained. 

I walked to the pub, where I could still hear cackles of laughter. As a dead man, I had no money, but certainly, someone would take pity on me and help me out with a place to sleep. It was dark now, and the dimly lit streets were a pathway to hopefully some sort of comfort. I reached the pub, opened the door, and walked in. 

I saw familiar faces laughing, embracing, eating, and reading. Life truly has kept moving forward in my absence. As I kept striding my way through the pub to who I believe is the innkeeper, I started to hear whispers.

Is that… That can’t be. No that can’t be John, can it?”

Don’t be daft, John has been in the ground for a year now at this point.”

Who is that foul man?”

“Excuse me, stranger, who are you?”

I turned around and saw a face that I had forgotten about. Many years ago I worked with this man as a farm laborer.  We hadn’t worked together long, just long enough to put seeds in the ground for harvest. Back then he was a man of few words, and I hope that he was also a man of few memories. 

“Just passing through, thanks.” 

“What is your name, sir?” 

He just wouldn’t give up. Do I lie? Do I come up with a false identity? 

“My name is John.”

“And your surname?”

“Listen, sir, as I said I am just passing through. I have been traveling for some time now and would like to just a moment to myself if it isn’t too much to ask.” 

All I heard was a “hmph” come from him, and I knew that my wish of solitude had been granted. I finally made my way to the back of the pub to who I believed was the innkeeper. 

“Excuse me, hello are you the innkeeper?” 

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Yes, thank you, my name is John and I was wondering if you had an extra bed?”

She looked at me up and down with a look of disgust on her face. I had a gut-wrenching feeling that this was not going to go well. 

“Yes, I do. Have you got any money?”

“No, I am afraid that I used the rest of it at the last inn.” A little white lie wasn’t going to hurt anyone. 

“Ahhh I see. So that innkeeper got paid for their services, and I am expected to just give away handouts? No money, no bed.”

“Yes well, perhaps we can work something out. Do you need help with dishes? Cleaning up a bit? I can do labor in exchange for a bed.”

“Once again, no money, no bed. Get out of my pub.”

I left with disappointment. I had no idea why I was back again, and now I have nowhere to stay for the night. I decided to head back towards where I came from, the cemetery. As I was walking I contemplated why I was here on this earth again. Was it God? Was it a medical miracle? Was I never really dead, just asleep? I tried to think about what was going through my mind when I was in the ground, but there was nothing. It was black. So why was I here?

I was close to the cemetery when I started to hear footsteps behind me. I started to pick up my pace, but when I did that the person started to follow my pace. I stopped, hoping that maybe the innkeeper had a change of heart, but when I turned around I was surprised to see who was following me.

“Who do you think you are coming into my town and not answering my questions as to who you are?” He was livid. I could smell the ale radiating off of him, and I could sense that something terrible was about to happen. 

“I told you who I am.”

“Yeah, John. But what is your surname? Where are you traveling from? Why are you here?”

“I am afraid that I am going to have to excuse myself. Have a good night.” I started to turn around when all of a sudden I felt a sharp, familiar pain in my left shoulder. 

“No one walks away from me, stranger.” 

I felt something slice into me over and over again, and I could do nothing about it. After the initial stabbing of the shoulder, I tried to push him off, but he was much stronger than I was. He had flipped me onto my back and started stabbing me in the chest. My last thought before my eyes closed was: 

This feels like it did one year ago…” 

And then, blackness. 

I wonder if the world can guess what day I woke upon. If you guessed August 27th, 1864 then you would be correct. 

The pub was still deafening with laughter, the insects were chirping, the rats were scavenging, everything was still the same. It had been one year since I had last seen my beloved, and although our interaction was less than desirable I just knew that I had to try again. 

So I followed the uneven cobblestone to the home that was oh so familiar, yet so different. This hasn’t been my true home in two years now, but it is the only home that I have ever had or will ever have. Other than the cemetery of course. 

I approached the home and just stared at it for some time. There were candles that lit the rooms and doorways. There was a small fire blazing in the fireplace. And there she was, in her rocking chair with a book in her hand. She was beautiful. Then again, she always was so this was not a surprise. As I was watching her I noticed a hand grab her shoulder. My defenses immediately went up and I was prepared to barge into the home in order to protect my wife. But then I saw her grab the hand, and not in self-defense. It was in a gentle, loving way like she could have expected someone to touch her. She kissed the hand while it was still in her grasp, and then he leaned down and gave her a loving kiss on her forehead. I couldn’t help but notice that they both were wearing gold bands around their marriage fingers. Is my wife no longer my wife?

I thought about leaving for just a moment. If tonight is like the past two nights that I was alive I will surely perish at some point. Do I need to put her through that again? Especially with how blissful she seems to be now? The answer was easy for me to determine. She may belong to someone else, but I have no one else to go to. I need help. I simply cannot keep living and dying this way. 

This was going to be painful for me to see her living her life with another man, but at least she is happy. Maybe he can help her help me. I walked up to the front door and knocked three times. I heard footsteps approaching at a casual rate and then, the door opened.

“What is this? John? Who are you?” The man asked with confusion taking over his face. 

“May I ask who you are?” I sternly asked.

“My name is Stewart, and I am the man of the house. What business do you have here?” 

“Stewart, hello. My name is John. May I speak to Hazel please?”

Ahhhh. Hazel. I see. This is some sort of trick. Hazel told me about how last year some demon claiming to be her John entered this home. This is a nasty trick. How dare you continuously put that woman through this pain…”

“Hello, John.”

And there she was. Standing right in front of me. She patted Stewart’s shoulder to let him know that he can back off, and so he did. She was so close to me that I could smell her. She smelled of lavender, her favorite fragrance. Stewart stood right behind her, but it mattered not to me. There she was. 

“Hello, Hazel.”

“I know what day it is. August 27th. A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about the events that happened exactly one year ago today. Surely you could understand my reaction, although I wish I would have listened more. You see, I thought you were some demon or warlock using magicks to play a nasty trick on me. But I have had this little voice inside of my head that maybe there was more to the story and that I needed to look into it further. There were talks of some stranger being stabbed to death the night that you visited me last year. Interestingly enough, I found out by the women who like to gossip that the sheriff noticed that the placements of the stabbing were identical to a murder thas he has seen before. Your murder, John. So I traveled to a seer, someone who could help me understand what was happening. I described in great detail to her about that night. The original night. And then what happened a year ago. She looked unphased by everything that I was saying to her, to the point where I was questioning my very own sanity. But then she said something that changed my life.”

She paused. I just kept staring at her, with my eyebrows furrowed together. Did she already know what was happening to me?

My dear, how you have felt so much pain. I can feel the agony that you are feeling. My whole body feels like it is being torn to shreds. But I am afraid if you want the answers that you are looking for then the agony will just become more unbearable. Do you truly want your heart to suffer more than it already has?” 

“Please. Tell me what I need to know. Is it John’s ghost? A demon? A warlock? How do I make this slow torture end!”

“My sweets, you were not the only woman in John’s life.”

“How dare you! That is impossible! John and I were in love, he would never run into the arms of another woman…”

“There is a woman in the town right next to yours that loves your John. In fact, the love that she felt for him drove her mad. She knew that he could never truly love her the way that he loved you, and she tried convincing herself that what he gave her would be enough, but the more he started to detach from her the fonder she grew on him. The thing about love, and the reason why so many consider it to be deadly, is because love can easily morph into something complicated. It can morph into an obsession. A lot of times this happens when one has never experienced the feeling of love before, so they almost become addicted to it. They crave it. They must have it and if they don’t then they want to make sure that the person that they want it from suffers. My dear, she loved your husband, but she ultimately became consumed with him and the idea of them having a life together. It wasn’t until your John told her that he didn’t want her and that he only wanted you was when she decided to enact something so heinous, so vile, that she could herself expect to meet the Devil himself upon her death. You see, she worked with magicks, and she has worked with them her entire life. Hazel, you must listen to what I am about to tell you. There is no such thing as light or dark magick. There are people out there that can choose how they want to use their magicks, and although this woman usually chose to only use her magicks for the greater good, this time she was mad enough to cast a curse upon your John. That rabid woman who stabbed your John on that night was a random woman, oh no. She was his ex-mistress. A woman who knew how to use magicks and wreak havoc onto one’s life. I have seen the curse that she put onto your husband. The curse is that every year your John will die the same way he has died all the times before. In a fatal stabbing. And this will continue for all of eternity unless he himself is able to free himself from the curse…”

“How? How can he free himself?” 

“He must stab the woman the same way that he has been stabbed. She must die by his hand and his alone. If she dies and John wasn’t the one that killed her then his fate with this curse has been sealed and he will live this way for all of eternity.”

“So John needs to kill the woman the same way that he has died. We can make that happen.”

“Never underestimate someone who works with the magicks, my love.”

“What is her name?”

“Deary, before I tell you, are you sure you want to help him?”

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I? Someone should suffer for all of eternity like that.”

“Sweets you just found out that he strayed away from you and into the arms of a madwoman!”

“Be as it may, no one should have to go through this. Sometimes mercy is easier than hate.”

“I see. Well, her name is Elda. I wish you the best of luck, my dear. If you need me you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, Seer. What can I offer you to make up for your help?”

“My dear, just help your husband. Don’t worry about me.”

“So, John, despite your wandering eye and your infidelity I have decided to help you. I loved you, John. We had what I thought was heavenly matrimony, and although you found comfort in her, even if it was just for a short time, it made it easier for me to move on. I love my Stewart. Stewart loves me and although it is a different relationship and it took some time getting used to I feel so at peace. And now I want the same for you.” 

I just stood there, staring at her in awe. I never wanted my Hazel to know about Elda. I have no idea why I did what I did. I have never in my life felt a love like the love that I shared with my Hazel, so I never understood why I also wanted Elda. 

“Hazel…”

“It is okay, John. I have made my peace with what you did, and now it’s your turn. Now. Do you remember where that terrible woman lives?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. I have taken it upon myself to fetch a couple of blades that should do the trick. Remember what the seer said, only you can kill her and reverse this curse.” 

“Hazel…”

“Yes, John?”

“Did the seer happen to say what will happen to me once I kill Elda?”
“She did not. One has to assume that you will continue living out your days until you naturally perish.”

“Or I could die and stay dead…” 

“Yes, John. There is also that possibility.”

Stewart, Hazel, and I all jumped on horses and started making our way to the next town over. I, of course, lead the way. It brought up so many emotions while we were taking the path to Elda’s house. I always thought that the way to Elda’s was so mystical. Overhanging trees. The sounds of the wind. The crisp scent of the air. The greenery alone who have anyone stop dead in their tracks and marvel. With that being said, I could also feel the emotions that I used to feel. Guilt, self-hatred, confusion, just to name a few. It was a path that I never saw myself riding on again, and yet here I was. On my way back to Elda’s. 

I could see Elda’s cottage. It was covered in ivy, alone in the woods. If you weren’t looking for it you would never know that it was there.

“See that cottage up ahead? That is where she lives.”

Then, we all stopped. The horses started to make noises of terror, and all of the blood that used to sit at our cheeks vanishes. We heard this cackling. A type of cackling that screams danger. It was Elda.

“John. HA. I have been spending the past two years wondering how long it would take for you to figure out what has happened. I must admit, I thought it would take you much longer. I am impressed.”

“It wasn’t John that figured it out, you daft witch. I figured it out!” Hazel’s voice was already starting to tremble in rage.

“It wasn’t you, you tortured sow. It was the seer. You made little effort to help our poor, sweet John. No wonder why he came my way. You’re PATHETIC.”

Hazel stayed atop her horse, but the worry that I felt for her was starting to increase by the second.

“Elda, I know what I must do in order to reverse this curse.”

“Oh, do you now, John? You could never kill me, John. You might have been able to break my heart, but you would never be able to steal my life.” 

Elda was smirking. She was playing a game that she was certain she was going to win. 

“Do you remember those nights that we spent together, John? Our moonlight walks. Our dances in the sitting area. Our gentle kisses and our passionate lovemaking? We shined brighter than the brightest star on the clearest night. We were meant to be together. You loved me, I know that…”

And then Elda fell to the ground. I was stunned to see who had been standing behind her.

“Hazel! What have you done!” 

“I tried to stop her, John. I tried! But she got me.” Stewart was holding his shoulder, while blood was dripping down his hand. It appears that while Elda was speaking to me Hazel jumped off of her horse in order to attack Elda but then Stewart got in the way when he attempted to stop her.

Hazel then screamed and continued to stab Elda the same way that I had been stabbed. Blood was gushing out from the wounds that Elda received. Her lifeless eyes just stared at me, like she was trying to say “I love you” one last time. And that was when I felt it. The sharp pains that felt all so familiar. 

“This is what you get for coming back, John! This is what you get for driving my Hazel to murder madness!” 

Stewart took what I thought would be my final breath…

I woke up on August 27th, 1865. Everything was the same. The pub was filled with loud heckles. The insects were chirping and the rats were scavenging. The cobblestone leading up to my home was still uneven. 

There they were. Both Hazel and Stewart. Both looked absolutely dreadful as they sat in their chairs in front of the fireplace. There was one measly candle, leaving the house mostly pitch black. 

I knocked on the door and heard both Hazel and Stewart walking towards me. When the door opened, they looked unsurprised to see me standing there before them. 

“Welcome back, John.” 

Hazel’s welcome was less than enthusiastic. I couldn’t help but just stare at her. Usually, I stare at Hazel in admiration, but this time I couldn’t believe that it was actually her. Her hair was knotted and not kept, her teeth were yellow and rotting, you could see her bones underneath her grey skin and her eyes were sunken in with deep darks circles underneath. Stewart looked quite similar to Hazel. 

“Hazel, Stewart, what happened?”

Hazel started to open her mouth, but then she abruptly closed it. She then turned around and went back to her chair and just sat there looking at the fire. Then Stewart started talking. 

“When that woman, Elda, was speaking with you, her taunts drove our Hazel mad. When she jumped off of her horse I knew what she was going to do, so I tried to stop her, but her rage made her stronger than me. Then, the next thing I knew, she stabbed Elda until she died. Then something came over me. Like I was in some sort of trance. I just wanted you to die. So I stabbed you. And I killed you. We didn’t know what would happen to you. We didn’t know if you were going to come back or stay dead so we went back to that seer. We told her everything that had transpired, and to our dismay, she informed us of your fate. Since it was Hazel that killed that vile human being and not you, you will spend eternity dying. There is nothing to do be done. There is nothing to rectify. This is your fate.”

I just stood there, in disbelief. Eternity?

That is when we heard the scream.

“Just remember, I love you both.”

And that was when we watched Hazel take the blade that Stewart stabbed me with and slit her own throat. 

The End.

Acceptance.

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There are going to be parts of you that others wish didn’t exist. 

I have spent most of my life being internally pleased with who I am. I am a complicated soul with many flaws and faults, but my positives, oh my positives, they know how to shine. 

One thing that I didn’t think would be so problematic, especially in the world that we live in today, was me announcing my sexuality. 

I would like to get one thing straight (haha, not me.) I didn’t tell everyone that I was bisexual for anyone but for myself. 

I have walked around for the majority of my life gasping for air. I had this secret, this secret that I was so ashamed of. It was this internal war where I was battling this small, minute part of who I am because I grew up in a time where being interested in the same sex was “wrong” or “disgusting” or “against the will of God.” I would have these thoughts that would literally keep me up at night in regards to my sexuality. 

“Could I actually see myself in a relationship with a woman? No that’s weird.”

“All I have ever had are boyfriends so maybe I am just straight.”

I would imagine myself living a life with a woman as my partner and I would also talk myself out of ever wanting something like that. As much as I supported the LGTBQ+ community and wanted everyone to thrive in it I couldn’t allow myself to fully accept the notion that I was apart of that community as well. 

Then one night I had an epiphany. I was bi and I had no reason to not accept that. Did it make me out to be a monster? No. Do I deserve to go to Hell? Well, first of all, I don’t believe in a Hell, but secondly, even if I did I know that I do not deserve to be punished for all of eternity just because of my sexual orientation. 

When I started telling people, and when I wrote my “Hi, I’m Bi” piece, the moment that I published it felt like the cleanest air that has ever existed entered my body. I felt lighter. I felt like I could breathe. It was magical. Sure, it is just one small part of me, but it is still a part of me. I wasn’t afraid of how people would react, I was excited that I no longer had to ignore that part of myself anymore. It took a lot of energy to pretend that that part of me didn’t exist. 

I thought that in today’s world acceptance would be a non-issue. If I could go back in time I would laugh at myself and just say “just you wait, you dumb bitch.” Has everyone supported me? HA. Fuck no. The people who I thought would text me or call me to tell me that they were proud of me or that they loved didn’t bother to bring it up. With that being said, the people who did support me REALLY supported me. I had people who I hadn’t heard from in ages tell me that they were proud of me. I had people reach out and tell me that they will always love me no matter what. I had friends tell me that it doesn’t matter, I am still the same Brookana that I have always been.

See, here is the thing. You are going to make choices and live out decisions that people who you are involved with don’t agree with. I have had someone tell me that I should have never shared my bi-sexuality publicly because there wasn’t a point. But that is the thing. There was a point, and that point was to help me. That point was to show other people like me that you don’t have to keep secrets if you don’t want to. If you want to breathe, then breathe. 

I am bi-sexual.

I am moderately tattooed and pierced.

I am opinionated. 

My religion is Wicca and I practice witchcraft.

I never finished college.

I write for a living.

I am going to attempt to open my own business.

I have been with my partner for eleven years and we have been married for four. We are both each other’s first true relationship.

I have five animals in a house that isn’t very large. 

We are actively trying for kids. 

I am sarcastic.

I don’t enjoy surrounding myself with people constantly because I get emotionally drained quickly.

I am an empath. 

I have 1,000 ideas and I want to enact every single one. 

There are so many little parts of me that a lot of people don’t understand, and that’s okay. Truthfully, the world doesn’t need to accept you. You need to accept you.

Feel.

What does it feel like to have a mental illness? 

Every person has a different experience, but here is mine.

Mental illness is a type of monster that wants nothing more than to isolate you, torture you, belittle you, and test you.

Mental illness will make you doubt yourself more than anyone else ever could, causing your own self worth to diminish with every word spoken from your mind. 

Mental illness will keep you up at night. You think about every single thing that has ever happened to you, you think about and play out scenarios that never even happened, and you question every choice that you have ever made.

Mental illness will make you feel like you are in a world of euphoria, where you have never-ending energy and you can take on anything that comes your way. If you wanted to, you could save the world with your love, positivity, and energy. You can spend hours exercising, deep cleaning, calling and texting all of your friends and family, and not feel anything but extraordinary. You could quite literally do anything and everything, and you try to because you feel so good. But then, you crash. You spend eighteen hours in bed sleeping despite your partner trying to wake you up. You ignore phone calls and texts because you don’t have it in you to speak to another soul. When you do wake up, you’re a shell of a human being that just does the bare minimum to keep your body alive because at that moment your spirit is gone. This can last for as little as a day, or even months. You never know. 

Mental illness is either eating too little or too much. 

Mental illness is watching videos at four in the morning on “at home stick and poke tattoos” and considering buying the equipment yourself because you could “easily do that!”

Mental illness is wanting to tell your friends and family that you are sinking into a low but you’re too afraid to tell them because they go through this with you all of the time. Also, they sometimes throw your mental illness in your face when they are displeased with you.

Mental illness is staring at the scars on your body that you gave yourself and hoping with everything that you have that you won’t pick up that blade again.

Mental illness is knowing what is happening to you but not having any control over it.

Mental illness is taking medication and having a therapist because life would be awful without those things. 

Mental illness is relying on animals to bring you a glimmer of happiness and a sense of calm. 

Mental illness is living past memories so vividly that you have to remind yourself that those memories are in the past and you are safe right now.

Mental illness is constantly having to listen to people tell you to “grow up” or “deal with it” or “snap out of it.” 

Mental illness is sobbing in the shower or on the floor of your bedroom because you can’t stop thinking of the worst. 

Mental illness is a curse. It’s a sickness that eats away at you. It is always there, taunting you in the background just so you know that it is still there and can hurt you at any time. 

If you know someone with mental illness, please take it seriously. Ask them what they need. Make them tea, put on their favorite movie, give them their favorite book, make them their favorite food. Do whatever you can to make them feel loved and cared for and valued because when they are in a low they can’t see how incredible they are. The pain is unbearable, and even a tiny bit of effort and love from the people around them could quite literally save their life.

Hi, I’m Bi

Hi, I’m bi. I never, ever would have thought it a million years that I would be telling everyone about this side of me that I have hid for the majority of my life. And let me just say when I say the majority of my life, I mean it. I have known that I was into both men and women since I was in kindergarten, and ever since I came to this realization I have been having an internal war within myself. 

I felt dirty, I felt wrong, and I felt like it was shameful. I am a millennial, but for the better portion of my life I grew up in a world that looked at gay people with disgust. The world that we live in now is so different from what I grew up in. Being gay wasn’t “normal.” People couldn’t live their truth freely without opening themselves up to discrimination and hate. Because of the world that I grew up in I was terrified of coming clean about this small portion of who I was. I didn’t want my friends and family to look at me differently. I didn’t want anyone to look at me in terror and question me. I didn’t want people to think that I was different from the Brookana that they have always known. So I just did what I could to hide it. I tried to camouflage it by becoming an “ally” for the community of people that I was a part of. I was never homophobic to anyone with the exception of myself. 

Things started changing for me when I became more comfortable with myself. I have been in a relationship with a man for eleven years, and he is wonderful. But I have realized that just because I am in love with a man doesn’t mean that I am automatically “straight.” I am still bi, and I always will be bi. 

I told my husband, (boyfriend at the time,) that I was bi about fiveish years ago. He was the first person that I flatout told, and at first, he did not take it well. I think it surprised him but also made him feel uncomfortable that I was also attracted to women. After a while he got used to it and we never really talked about it again. My best friend was the second person to find out. She always kind of knew that I was curious, but she never really knew that I was actually bi until a couple of years ago. I am so lucky to have my husband and my best friend. I was terrified telling them about this side to myself, but they have been incredible. Especially my best friend. I was mostly worried about her finding out because I didn’t know how it would affect our relationship, but I should have given her more credit because our relationship is exactly the same. 

I started toying with the idea of becoming more free about it when someone that I love so incredibly much let it be known about their extreme homophobia. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I figured that now would be the time to put things in perspective. I asked them if I was into women if it would make them see me any differently or if they would stop loving me and they said no. Then I told them that I have kissed a girl before and he never knew but he has always loved me the same. It is a part of who I am, but a small part, and apparently their views are starting to change. Not too long after that conversation they asked me in front of another person if I was bi and I just froze. I lied and said that I was fluid. I was too scared. 

But now here I am. Telling my family and the rest of my friends the truth. Hi, my name is Brookana, and I am bi.

I am White.

I am white. 

I have never been pulled over by a cop with the fear of my life being stolen from me.

I am white. 

I have never been going on my daily run and was hunted down and murdered in the neighborhood that I always ran in.

I am white. 

I have never had to find an associate to unlock a case where the beauty products for my specific type of hair was held. 

I am white.  

I have never been sleeping in my bed when cops broke in and murdered me. 

I am white. 

I have never had to plead for someone to remove their knee from my neck resulting in me not being able to breathe which eventually killed me. 

I am white. 

I have never done something where I was given a punishment of a life sentence when, if anything, I could have just received a fine. 

I am white. 

I was never injected with a deadly dose of ketamine while walking home from a store which resulted in my death.

I am white. 

I have never been somewhere where someone followed me just because of my race. 

I am white. 

I have never been told that my feelings were “invalid” because “all lives matter.” 

I am white. 

I have white privilege. I don’t have to worry about these things because I was born in a body that allows me to live my life freely. I don’t fear for my life on a daily basis. I see my privilege. My duty is to be an ally for those who have not known anything but oppression. My duty is to make sure that people finally start hearing people of color, and not just hearing, but listening and understanding. 

Racism should have never existed in the first place, but it is time to rid the evil that lingers. 

You have an ally in me.

Also, just remember that if the bullets start flying you can stand behind me. 

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Rosemary and the Tree

I find solace in solitude. Being around others clogs up my senses. I can feel everything that others feel. I can feel depressive episodes, I can feel one’s will and desire for life starting to dwindle. I can feel their soul unravel as they decide whether or not to take that blade and slice open their forearms. I can feel their pain, like a seared knife slicing into their heart over and over again. I can feel them searching for mercy every day while facing the unavoidable truth that their torment is there to stay at night. Feeling this way constantly is unhealthy for anyone, and the magnitude in which I feel these things would be too much for anyone to bear.

I spend most of my days at the cemetery. The ones in the graves are the ones who give me what I need. A sense of calm. Peace. I look at each of the gravestones and just imagine what kind of life that person lived. For instance, there is a man named Ed that died when he was eighty-seven. He was a husband, a father, and a priest. I bet Ed lived a life that was filled to the brim with love. Between his family and God, I am almost positive that Ed constantly felt fulfilled and had a smile on his face. Every Christmas his wife, children, and grandchildren would join him at church for his sermon, and then they would all go back home to a wonderfully delightful dinner and enjoy one another’s company. Laughter, stories, and quality time were important to Ed. Ed was a great man, at least that is how I envision him to be. 

  There is one spot that I love the most at the cemetery. There is this massive tree, almost directly in the center of the cemetery, that I love to sit at just decompress. I feel most at peace at that tree. It is surrounded by graves of people who have many stories to tell, and yet it is so quiet. I can finally just focus on my emotions, but more often than not I just turn everything off and just close my eyes. I listen to the wind blow through the branches of the tree, shaking the leaves to make sure I know that it is there. I listen to the herds of birds fly above me. I listen to the quiet. When I am sitting at that tree, it is almost as if my soul sinks into the ground. I just feel myself melting into the ground, officially becoming one with the earth. Sometimes I put myself in such a relaxed state that I drift off and have dreams of the tree. I dream that the tree takes the shape of a woman, who welcomes me with open arms. This woman has long hair that is tinted green, and she has leaves tangled in her natural waves. Her arms are long, and when she hugs me it feels like she could easily fit an extra person in her bear hug. She smells like fresh-cut grass, one of my all-time favorite scents. 

She has the most soothing way about her. She never speaks, and yet you always know what she is saying. She wants me to be happy. She wants me to feel this at peace forever. The life that I live is not fair to anyone, and she wants me to be protected. She feels like the mother that I never had. Conversations with her seem like they go on for hours. I never tire when I am with her. 

The dream always ends the same way. After our in-depth conversations she always asks one thing as she strokes my cheek with her loving touch: 

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could stay here with me forever?” 

I always want to say yes, but before I do I abruptly wake up. Sometimes I try to go back to sleep so I can reply to her, but I am never able to. 

This time around though I am determined to say yes before I wake up. I know it is crazy that I am this invested in a dream, but this recurring dream is one that I want to explore more. I need to know what happens if I tell her that I want to stay with her forever. 

It was a cozy day. The leaves were starting to change color, it was cool but not too cold, and you could smell fall. It was my favorite time of year and my favorite time to spend at my most favorite place sitting near my most favorite tree.

As I was walking towards the tree I said hello to my pal Ed, and I was passing his grave I came to a sudden halt. I felt like someone had tried grabbing my arm in an effort to stop me dead in my tracks. I felt a sensation of fear and anxiety start to take over me. This was odd. This has never happened here before. I stood there, in disbelief for a few moments, and then decided to move on. I continued onward to my quest of getting to the tree when I swore that I heard my name in the wind. 

“Go back, Rosemary. Go back.”

Rosemary…”

“Don’t say yes, Rosemary.”

Now my mind was officially playing tricks on me. I suppose I did not have a restful sleep the night before, so that could explain it. With the tree about fifty feet ahead of me I felt that feeling of fear and anxiety start to dissipate. I felt eager to feel that peace that I always felt at the tree, and I was excited to drift into a sweet slumber to explore what would happen if I said yes.

I picked up my pace, and a few moments later, there I was, standing right in front of the tree. I propped up my backpack to the right of me so I could lean against it with my back against the tree, and for some reason, I felt the need to say something out loud.

“I want to stay here forever.”

Then, without a moment’s notice, my eyes closed and I saw her coming towards me. 

She was beautiful as always, with her arms extended out towards me and a loving smile on her face. I ran up to her and allowed her to embrace me in the most beautiful and mothering way, and I felt that peace that I so desired. I think I was in a lucid dream because I felt in complete control of my thoughts, feelings, and actions. Before I knew it I said:

“I know what you are going to ask me, and yes. I do think it would be wonderful if I stayed here with you forever.”

She looked at me with love in her eyes, like a mother looks at their newborn baby. She smiled and then started to open her mouth. I thought that she was finally going to speak to me when all of a sudden her beautiful tinted green hair turned into searing fire, and her loving embrace started to blister my skin. I felt my body start to turn to ash, and I saw what used to be my left arm fall to the ground near her rooted feet. As I felt myself burn and fall, I remember looking up at her and seeing her expression. She was still smiling, but it was not a comforting smile. It was the smile of someone who knows that they just won.

*FOUR YEARS LATER*

I find solace in solitude. I don’t have any friends because they emotionally overwhelm me, so instead, I like to hang out at a cool little cemetery that I found. Every now and again I like to play a little game where I come up with stories about the people in the graves, and I think today I am going to come up with a life story for someone named Rosemary.

My Wicca and Witchcraft Journey: Part One

I have never been a religious person. I have never believed in God and I have never dedicated my life to any religion. That being said, just because I have never belonged to any religion doesn’t mean that I have never respected different practices. In fact, it is quite the contrary. I have always been fascinated with how people practice different faiths, and I have always found it so intriguing to learn about the histories and practices behind different religions. 

While growing up my mom and stepdad went through a phase where they wanted to become more involved in the church that was right near our house. My stepdad grew up catholic and my mom was a Christian, so faith was somewhat important to them. It is safe to say that my brother and I did everything in our power to rebel against the idea that we had to wake up super early on a Sunday and go sit with a bunch of people listening to things that we didn’t care about. We were young and stubborn, but we weren’t the only ones who grew tired of going early on. Like I mentioned before, my stepdad grew up catholic, so he was used to a certain structure when it came to his faith. The church that we started going to as a family was a Methodist church, so more times than not my mom would catch my stepdad dead asleep while the preacher was in the middle of his lecture. I thought it was funny, but my mom was humiliated. In my early teen years I decided to give the church another chance, so I decided to go through with being confirmed. I believe it was about a year-long process, and as interesting as it was learning about everything, it was apparent early on that the church was not going to be for me. Honestly, I think what did it in for me was when we learned that we were expected to give ten percent of our annual earnings to the church, and while I would never discriminate against donations, even at that young of an age I was displeased with being told what to do with my finances. I did end up going through with the confirmation, but to be honest I don’t think I ever went back to the church after the ceremony.

From there on my interest in different religions was just that: interest. I have always loved watching documentaries about different religions, especially ancient ones. I also think it is fair to note that I love the idea of religion. I am appreciative of anything that brings joy and security into someone’s life, and if that is in the form of religion then, by all means, have at it. Well, that is as long as there isn’t any animal or human sacrifices or mutilations or anything of that nature. I will never forget an article that I once wrote back in high school about different religions and the history behind each one. I even interviewed my classmates so I could really understand how they practiced. I still think to this day that was one of my favorite pieces that I ever wrote back then. 

So at this point in time I hope that you are getting the gist. I never truly belonged to a religion, but I did respect religions and I found them to be interesting. For the past year I have been noticing things about myself. There are aspects about who I am and what I enjoy and love that I always just thought were surface level, but I realized that if you group certain things about me together it makes things much more intriguing. I never believed in God, but I have always believed in the Universe.  

You know how when something bad is happening to someone most people say things like “I will pray for you” or “God has a plan for you?” When I find out that someone is experiencing something unfortunate I have never prayed for them. I have always believed in energy. So when something bad is happening to others or to myself I always send out positivity into the universe so that that energy can go to the person, or any being for that matter, that needs it. I have always believed that everyone and everything is all connected by the energy of the universe. It is interesting because whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or in a deep depressive state the only place where I can really go in order to seek out comfort is outside in my backyard. I can’t explain it, but even in the times where I am having an anxiety attack and I feel like I am dying and I can’t catch my breath the moment I go to my place outside and I feel the earth and its vibrations against my body I almost instantly feel better. For me, it is an indescribable sense of comfort, like Mother Earth is wrapping me up in her arms telling me that everything is going to be alright. 

I also have this weird relationship with animals. It is not a secret that my biggest obsession on this earth is my very own animals who I consider my actual children. (Which, by the way, I recently adopted another cat and her name is Zelda and the moment I saw her was the moment I knew that I was meant to be her mom. Surprise!) This deep connection that I have always had with animals has been somewhat offputting to others. For instance, I have a bond with my dog Luna that almost feels unnatural. I truly think that we know what each other is thinking and what we are both needing in any given moment, and truthfully Luna is probably my biggest support. She knows when I am depressed, she knows when I need a good laugh or a cuddle. She knows when I need to just feel her weight against me. She can look at me in the eyes and it feels as if our souls are connected. I feel that way with my cats as well. My bond with my furbabies is unlike anything I have ever felt before. But I also feel this type of connection with all animals. Maybe not to the magnitude of my own, but it is there nonetheless. 

I also have tried to live a more holistic lifestyle. I try to be environmentally friendly, I avoid using harsh chemicals, I recycle and I take a stand for animal rights and the earth. I have always just felt this magnetic draw to all living beings, including our planet. 

Another interesting thing about myself that I believe is becoming stronger and stronger each and every day is my sensitivity. Now I don’t just mean sensitive with my emotions, but let’s face it, I am a cancer sign so the emotional side of me is yikes at best. But the sensitivity that I am actually referring to in this instance is my ability to pick up different energies that we might not be able to see in this dimension. Also, there is no doubt in my mind that I am an empath. When it comes to picking up energies, I have always been able to feel them. I have seen different energies as well, but for the most part it is just a feeling. For example, I know that there is something that is in my in-laws home. I have known for about ten years that there is another energy there, and I have been open about it with my family. Now, of course, they don’t think anything is there, but I can feel this energy that is not necessarily hostile, but it is unsettling. It is that feeling where your body starts to tense up, starting with your spine, and it feels like your heart is about to beat right out of your body. It is that feeling where you know that someone is there, but you are too afraid to look. I will admit it. There have been many times where I have purposely unfocused my vision so that my surroundings were blurry because I could sense that something was there and I didn’t want to see it. I was afraid. 

As a child I used to have premonitions. I will never forget one in particular where I dreamt that my brother and I were playing in our playroom and then a couple of days later we did the same exact things that I had dreamt a few nights prior. And when I say the same exact things, I mean the same exact things. We played exactly how we played in my dream, even the way we spoke was identical. Another odd thing that used to happen when I was a child was this imaginary friend that my Mema told me about. I can’t remember the friend’s name, but it was some really old, obscure name that she hadn’t even heard before. There was no way that I had heard this name on TV, and there was no one in our family with that name. My Mema has always said that she believes that I carried over that name from a past life, and I have to say, I think she is right.

That leads me into something that I have always believed in, and that reincarnation. To be honest, I have always liked the idea of Heaven, but I would have to say that I have never thought that Heaven was a real place. For me, I have always just felt like our souls are just forms of energy that gets recycled. I have always felt like with each life you learn new things, and then when you die you can come back in a different form and learn even more. I believe in old souls and baby souls. I believe that with each lifetime you are still surrounded by the same loved ones, but just not in the same way with each life. I don’t believe in Hell, and I don’t believe in the devil. I believe in the universe and in energy.

So all of this information may have you wondering “why are you telling us this?” Although I have never believed in God or anything like that I have always been open to there being something. I have had these beliefs and feelings and I never felt like I was or could be a part of something. Then I came across Wicca and witchcraft. Now I would like to point out to those who are unfamiliar with Wicca and witchcraft that they are not the same thing. Wicca is a religion and witchcraft is a practice. Now I will get into details about Wicca and witchcraft in another piece, but when I tell you that after doing a lot of personal research on the topics and some soul searching I have never felt like this before. I feel like everything that I have ever believed in and felt finally has a home. I feel this magnetic draw to learn more about it, and with each piece of information I can feel my soul become more and more at peace. 

So far I have read countless pieces of literature on Wicca and witchcraft, I have built my altar, I have started my herb collection, and I have cast a circle. I have thanked the elements and I have been focusing on my journey and path. And I haven’t felt this “at home” sensation in a very, very long time. I was a girl that had beliefs but didn’t know where they belonged. And now that I have found my place, I have felt such unexplainable appreciation, gratitude, and peace.

The Truth About Marriage

*** I have permission from my husband to discuss our issues.

Do you ever just think back to your wedding day to the exact moment where you said your vows and wish that you could scream at yourself “Run bitch! RUN!” I would like to say that that thought has never crossed my mind, but that would be a bald-faced lie. The truth is that as much as I love my husband, I sometimes wish that we never got married. People always told me that marriage is hard, but I always brushed off their warnings. I always thought that my husband, Stephen, and I were solid. That our love was strong enough to fight against any hardships. I was naive and ignorant to ever have that mindset. 

This past month and a half have been difficult. I have been dealing with an internal crisis that has taken over my life. Before I left for Salem I felt myself shifting. I felt myself pull away from my marriage more and more, and I felt like that need for eternal love and partnership started to dwindle away. Before I go any further, let me just preface this by saying that my feelings about my marriage might seem sudden, but they aren’t. Unfortunately, there have been substantial issues in my marriage for quite some time and I think I finally just hit a breaking point. I think the biggest problem is that Stephen and I are fundamentally different in what we need to feel fulfilled in life and in a relationship. I grew up with a family that was troubled, but one thing that we excelled at was communication. No one ever had to wonder what each other was thinking, because we were never afraid to say what was on our mind. My family is VERY affectionate, to the point where it almost can feel smothering sometimes. But at the end of the day, at least you know that you are loved and cared for. Not only did my family teach me communicative skills and how to wear your heart on your sleeve, but my many years of therapy also reinforced the importance of speaking your truth, no matter what the content is. Stephen, on the other hand, grew up differently than I did. Or at least that is what he has told me. Apparently he didn’t grow up expressing emotions or thoughts or having a ton of affection, which is totally fine, but it is different than what I am used to. Due to our different backgrounds, it has made our relationship extremely difficult and challenging. 

Back to what I was saying before I needed to do a preface, I knew that I was already shifting away from my marriage before I left for my solo trip. For years I have begged Stephen to help me work on two things that I feel are significant to our marriage, and that is communication and intimacy. I have carried the weight of our relationship on my shoulders since the conception of our partnership, and I have grown tired. I have always been the one to make sure that he was happy. Happy with himself. Happy with me. Happy with us. Happy with life. If I could sense that something was off, I always try to be the person to help rectify whatever was wrong. I would tend to him and put his needs before my own because I thought it would be selfish to view my needs and desires even equally to his. I did everything that I could to make sure that he felt like his life was everything that he ever wanted it to be, all while I was drowning and gasping for air. When it comes to intimacy, I don’t just mean physically. Although our sex life was lacking, and not because of me, we were also lacking in all aspects of intimacy. In my eyes, we became glorified roommates. Not even best friends. Maybe just acquaintances. Stephen would never want to have meaningful conversations with me. Everything was just so surface level. We would laugh about memes on Facebook and talk about games, but we very rarely had conversations that were full of depth. We would sometimes talk about our dreams for our future, but those conversations were always short because I am much more of a visionary than he is. Even when something great would happen to me, I was always hesitant to tell him because his reaction to everything is “that’s cool Bebe.” When you are really thrilled about something, you want your partner to be just as excited as you are, and then when they aren’t it just kills some of your enthusiasm.  

So we were lacking in communication and intimacy, but we were also lacking in our sex life. (Quick side note to my parents and in-laws: Sorry for what you are about to read. You might just want to skip ahead.) I have a pretty standard libido. I would say having sex two or three times a week would be sufficient. And to be frank, I don’t even need to “make love” all of those times. Honestly, sometimes I just feel so wound up that I need to just have sex to release some of that tension. I think that having that connection with your partner during and after sex is such an incredible feeling and it kind of makes you feel more connected with them. Like both of your energies become intertwined and you feel absolute euphoria. That feeling, that connection, is essential for me to feel completely fulfilled in my relationship. Stephen doesn’t need sex as often as I do, so that has caused another issue in our marriage. And over time, when you are the one constantly initiating sex, you start to feel doubt that your partner is attracted to you. Or if they even love you. 

So with me being the one to try to have meaningful conversations, keeping the spark of our relationship lit, and initiating sex, I became overwhelmed and resentful. Keep in mind, we have been together for ten years and we have been married for three years, (ironically I am writing this the day before our four year anniversary,) so having done all of the heavy lifting I started to look at Stephen differently. I became tired of having the same conversations and fights with him about our issues. I hated that even if I had nothing to apologize for I would still do it so that the arguments could be over. I became sick of being in the same loop that I have been in for so long, and out of nowhere I had an epiphany: I could leave. 

I wanted to run. I dreamed of packing up all of my stuff and my furbabies and buying a plot of land with some tiny houses and just living my life the way that I wanted. I didn’t want to worry or think about Stephen and his feelings and our relationship. I just wanted to worry about me and what I needed. By the time I left for Salem, I was feeling so emotionally taken advantage of that I could barely look at Stephen without feeling some form of anger. You see, Stephen has this cycle that he puts me through and this is how it goes: I express that I wish that our communication, intimacy, and sex life was better, we fight, he deflects, I apologize so that the fight ends, he realizes that he needs to work on things, he tries for a week and then right when things start to feel good he stops trying and reverts back to how it was before. I feel taken advantage of because I think he knows that he can stop putting effort into our relationship and I will still be there. So in some ways, it is my fault because I have taught him that I will stick by his side even if he stops trying in our marriage. But at the same time, he makes a conscious choice to stop putting in the work, so he needs to own his part of the issue. 

I have been with Stephen for almost half of my life, and before being with Stephen I was with my parents. I have never been alone, and I have never learned how to be truly independent. So when I went to Salem, I got a taste of a life that I never knew I craved. I was completely alone and I did everything for myself. I was laughing again. I was smiling. And, to my utter shock and surprise, I was interacting with people. I was happy. Like blissfully happy. I missed my furbabies, but I didn’t miss anyone or anything else. I think the biggest thing that Salem taught me was that I am capable of living an amazing life on my own and having that knowledge gave me a thirst for independence that I have never felt before. I already felt detached from Stephen, and in my mind, I think I was prepping myself for what my future might end up looking like. Just me and my furbabies. Alone in our tiny houses. That was the life that I now wanted. 

When I came home from Salem Stephen knew something was different. I think that to some level he was scared. He even said that he could tell that I was “checked out” and had “one foot out of the door.” So one would think that if he could pick up on the shift of our relationship that that would motivate him to put some effort in, but of course it didn’t. The fact that he didn’t do anything at all just confirmed that I was starting to think properly. Leaving was going to be the next step for me and my furbabies, and I didn’t care if it hurt him. 

I was so serious about leaving that I was talking to my therapist about what to expect emotionally from the separation. I was researching divorce law and looking into lawyers. I was figuring what I could afford for an apartment. I was done. I didn’t hate Stephen, but the sight of him made me sick. After all of these years of begging him to help me fix our relationship and him always coming up short, I was filled to the brim with resentment. I feel like I was completely justified in my feelings. I felt like he completely sucked me dry of every ounce of energy that I had. And when I started to feel depleted, he would continue to siphon energy that I didn’t have. I expected that in our partnership that he would help keep us afloat, but that wasn’t the case. Here is the thing. The notion that a partnership is fifty: fifty is complete and utter bullshit. A partnership will never be equal when comes to both of you contributing equally. It could be sixty: forty, or even eighty: twenty. It all depends on what each individual needs at that moment. But here is the catch: those percentages are supposed to fluctuate. If you are feeling like you can’t give as much to your relationship for a while that is fine, but eventually, you are supposed to put forth the effort that you have been lacking. That hasn’t been the case with my relationship. Emotionally speaking, it has always been me putting in eighty-five percent of the effort and Stephen putting in fifteen percent. I was tired. 

While I carried the weight of our emotional relationship, Stephen has always been the sole provider financially, and for that, I will always be grateful. Stephen has a tremendous work ethic. He works hard and he is efficient. He gets promoted quite often, and I am never surprised. I have been told by a couple of people that he gets a pass on helping me with our relationship because he works full time and because of how hard he works, but to be blunt, that is fucking stupid. Yes, he does work hard. Yes, he does work forty hours a week. Yes, he does provide a great life financially for me and the furbabies. With that being said, most people work, and if everyone used that excuse for not putting effort into their relationship than there would not be any relationships. This is a partnership. Like I said previously, the effort will never be equal, but both parties need to responsible for keeping the relationship healthy.

After feeling this immense amount of toxicity for so long, something miraculous finally happened. Stephen finally understood that he was losing me, and something clicked for him. He finally agreed to go to individual therapy, and he has been putting effort into us. I never expected a full change from Stephen. All I have ever wanted was some sort of progress. Something that showed me that he cared enough to try to help us. So now that he is showing me that he is willing to try, I am willing to give him another chance.

Listen. Typically I am a pretty humble human being, but I just need to say that I know that I am smart. Really smart. So I am going forward with our relationship cautiously. I am still fully prepared to pull the plug because I know what I deserve and what I have been given in the past is unacceptable. I don’t fully trust Stephen when it comes to him changing. I am taking it one day at a time with him. But I do embrace every step forward that we take as a couple, and I remain hopeful that we will continue to grow and heal and build our strength as a unit. 

I think the one thing that I want to make known is that you should never feel like you owe your partner anything. There has been a couple of individuals who have stated that I should give Stephen a break because he works, but there is no excuse for someone to take emotional advantage of their partner. I don’t owe him anything. I am living my life, and if I feel like I am not getting what I deserve then I have every right to make it known. I am in charge of what I want my life to look like, and if I am unhappy with my partnership then I have every right to leave and rectify the situation. I felt stuck for so long, and it is refreshing to realize that I don’t need to feel that way anymore. I can change anything that brings me unhappiness. 

Stephen is a great human being. He makes me laugh harder than anyone in the world. He loves our furbabies more than anything. He is honest. He works hard. He doesn’t have a cruel bone in his body. He has faults that have made our relationship extremely challenging, but it is not like I am perfect. It must be difficult for him to be in love with someone who deals with clinical depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD. I also am lazy. Like really lazy. I am flawed too. 

I don’t know if we will be together forever. I have my doubts. But I am still going to try.

Salem: Part Three

As of recently, I have been experiencing an internal dilemma that I had never really felt before. The idea of being codependent and not being my own person has always been a fear of mine, but I started wondering why I stopped doing things that I have always wanted to do. I realized that if I didn’t have someone to experience certain things with then it wouldn’t be worth experiencing, and that is when I came to the conclusion that I was giving myself an injustice. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to go somewhere or do something but my husband or my best friend didn’t want to experience it with me, so I would just drop it and move on. Suddenly I realized that I have been unaware and oblivious to the fact that one of my biggest fears was coming true. I was allowing others to be in control of my happiness, and that left a pit in my stomach and soul. 

I need to come clean about something. For years I have been allowing my fear and my 

comfortability control what I do with my life. It started when I lived in Dallas. I was virtually alone the majority of the time, and I became used to that feeling. The only time I would ever leave my apartment was for work or doctor appointments, and it became so bad that the idea of going grocery shopping alone would give me an anxiety attack. Even if I needed something I would purposely try to hold off going to get it until the weekend so that my husband could go with me. I don’t think I was approaching agoraphobia or anything, I just think that I had severe social anxiety and it prevented me from doing anything alone. I still have issues with that, but it is not nearly as bad as it once had been. 

My mindset was preventing me from living the life that I so desperately desired. Doing things on my own was never really something that I accepted as a possibility. So for all this time when I could have been doing things to give my life purpose, I just have been easily dropping them when others didn’t want to do them with me. Thinking about that mindset now actually makes me kind of sick to my stomach. How could I have ever been so reliant on other people for experiences or happiness? How could I have ever thought that that was normal or okay? 

All it took was one moment for my mind to switch. It was just one teeny-tiny little moment where I thought: “What the fuck am I doing?” That singular moment in time is the moment that is responsible for changing my life. I realized that I was no longer going to accept that I can only follow through with my dreams and goals if I had someone by my side. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be placing my well-being in the hands of others. Just because I am in a marriage doesn’t mean that I am living our life. No. I am living my life and he just happens to be a great part of that. Even when it comes to my best friend. I love doing things with her, but there are things that I want to do that she doesn’t and vice versa. I will always want to experience and go through things with both my husband and my best friend, but there comes a time where you stop caring if others want to do things with you. And that time has come. I am open and ready to start living my life the way that I want to live it. I am going to do things even if others don’t want to do them or if they don’t understand them. Living your life with people can be great, but living your life for you is exhilarating. And that is one of the first lessons that Salem has taught me. 

When I had that moment of clarity I didn’t just want to think about it. I wanted to live it. I wanted to dive in and I wanted to dive deep. I wanted to push myself to test what I was capable of. Something that I always talk about is traveling, but I have never been in the financial position to be able to do it. Plus, all of the places that I wanted to experience my husband didn’t, so that put a damper on things. With that being said, things have changed. I have some money now, not a lot but enough for a small trip. And I no longer care if my husband wants to do something with me or not. If something is possible for me to do then I am going to do it. So I thought what better way to push myself than going on a trip, somewhat far away, alone, to a place that I have always wanted to go to that nobody else I knew would be interested in. That’s where Salem came into play. 

Although I wasn’t going to be in Salem for long, I still wanted to make sure that it would be okay with my husband. If I am going to be honest, I already knew that despite what he said that I was going to go, but I also wanted to have that respect for him and let him know what I was thinking. He was okay with me going, which made me happy, so I booked my ticket and hotel and planned my little heart away like the type a personality that I am. 

I am not going to lie to you guys. I was super excited all the way up to the morning of my departure. Then when my stepdad picked me up to take me to the airport I started feeling doubt. I was worried about leaving my furbabies and leaving my husband and all of that fun stuff. Luckily, that worry was short-lived. The moment I felt the plane take off all of my excitement and eagerness came rushing back, and I was so ready for this adventure. When I landed in Boston and made my way to Salem my mind was in a whirlwind. I just couldn’t believe that I actually did this. I couldn’t believe that I actually traveled to a place that I have never been to before by myself. Then that disbelief turned into something that I very rarely feel about myself. I became proud of myself and this step that I had taken. I don’t really feel like anyone should have to justify why they might be proud of something that they have accomplished whether it is a big or small thing. Accomplishing any sort of dream or goal is something one should feel pride in. So I feel like some people might think “You went on a trip by yourself. Big whoop.” But for me, this was huge. The only time that I have ever traveled alone was when I would go back and forth from Dallas to Chicago, and even then I still did stuff with people every day. With Salem, I was in charge of making all of my own decisions, getting to the places that I wanted to see, feeding myself, etc. Everything was all on me. At first, I thought that the notion of me being solely responsible for myself would be terrifying, but it was actually the complete opposite. 

I have never felt more liberated in my entire life. Being completely on my own gave me a sense of freedom and happiness that I never have experienced before. Every moment was intoxicating, and I craved it. I woke up each morning eager for the day to begin, and that is something that I don’t really ever feel. It is such a crazy feeling that not too long ago I couldn’t even go to Target alone without experiencing severe anxiety, and now here I was all alone on the other side of the country. I was talking with strangers and making new friends. I was appreciating the history and background of the beautiful city that I was in. I was self-reflecting and figuring out what self-love really meant. I truly was thriving. I was able to get to know someone a lot better. Someone who I have known for twenty-six years. Me. 

When you put yourself in a small bubble of what you think you are capable of you are doing the worst thing possible for yourself. Because of my assumptions about myself I have missed out on so much living. I have bypassed opportunities and possibilities that would have given me purpose and brought me joy. It is sad to me to know that the feeling that I felt in Salem could have been a feeling that I have felt all along, but I have decided that instead of dwelling on what could have been I am going to focus on what I am going to do about it.

I am going to make a list for myself, and I want to do everything possible to make these things happen. Salem was a dream of mine for so long and I was able to do that, so the way that I see it is that Salem was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I have realized that I am self-sufficient and capable of being the person that I want to be, and I am going to do everything in my power to continue this path of independence.

It is funny how when you have a significant other you think you have to live your life with them. I thought that for so long, and it couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I have figured out that I have dreams and goals for my marriage, but more importantly, I have them for myself. And to me, it is more important to accomplish your own individual goals and dreams rather than the ones that you share with your partner. I know that that might sound selfish, but if you think about it, is it really? If you are longing to do things for yourself that your partner doesn’t want to do then you most likely will expect to see good ole’ Uncle Resentment knocking on your door, and everyone knows we try to avoid him as much as possible. I don’t want to look at my husband one day with hatred because I never was able to live my life the way that I wanted to. What kind of partner can I be to him if I was unhappy with my life and my choices? I feel like in order to be a good enough partner to him I need to be good to myself. So I regret to inform my loved ones, including my husband, that they have all been pushed down on my priority list because I have finally placed myself at the top. 

I do have one bit of bad news that has resulted from my first ever solo trip. As much clarity as I have found, I have also found equal amounts of confusion. I am questioning if I made the right decision by getting married and being in a committed relationship so young. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and I never had that alone time to really learn about myself. I went from relying on my family to relying on my husband, and I never learned that I am capable of being on my own. I feel like I am needing more time for self-discovery. I am yearning for it. I miss Salem, but I miss my alone time more. This scares my husband. He thinks that I have one foot out the door. But this is not what this is. I am leaving. But I am not leaving him. I am leaving the old version of me. I am leaving that girl that was scared and dependant on others. I am leaving the girl who easily gave up on her goals and dreams. I am leaving the girl who put literally everyone else’s happiness before her own. I feel reinvented. I feel like for once in my life I am in charge of myself. I feel incredible. One of my biggest takeaways from Salem is that I can take care of myself both emotionally and physically. I can live a life alone and still feel tremendously happy and fulfilled. I don’t need my husband, my best friend or my family. If everyone was out of my life I would be fine. 

That statement is not a bad thing. I have learned that the people who are in your life shouldn’t be in your life because you need them. They should be there because you want them there. And believe me when I say, I want them all to still have a part in my life because they do bring me so much joy. But it is refreshing to know that I don’t need others to still have a beautiful and magical life. I am capable of providing that for myself. And I have never felt so empowered.

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