Anyone out there watching Bravo's take on the Dirty John story? If you've been in a relationship with a sociopath/narcissist, it's either going to be must-see TV or you should stay far away from it, depending on where you are in your healing.
For about a year, people who knew what I endured from 2014-2017 kept telling me to listen to the podcast "Dirty John." I didn't for the longest time but when I finally had the chance earlier this year, I was blown away by similarities. I wrote about that experience HERE. If I've learned anything since I started receiving messages from women around the world who also let my ex into their life, it's that the tactics and MO employed by the abusers are not only similar from case to case (in my case, from woman to woman), but they manipulate and control in very similar ways to other abusers.
Many of these individuals do and say the same things. And they're frequently called pathological liars and serial cheaters by mental health professionals. Chills went up and down my spine when I saw "pathological liar" on documents pertaining to Dirty John Meehan that Debra found in the latest episode. This was consistent with what I came to learn about my abuser as well.
I'm in the process of writing a book about my journey which means I've had to revisit messages and documents recently and each time I do, now that I'm farther away from the abuse than ever, I find new "aha" moments.
For example, I remember being told in the beginning that he never wrote about his wife on social media much because he just didn't feel that connected to her. After all they both supposedly were "separated" but living together for the kids/financial reasons and just waiting until the kids were older to officially split. He said everything was different with me—he wanted to shout his feelings for me from the rooftops. I believed that line because he gave me no reason in the beginning to question it. He was friends with some of my friends who I know are really good, honest people so I immediately labeled him "innocent" by association. This was a bit different from what Debra experienced with Dirty John, whom she met online without any association. I simply thought if he was a bad guy, my friends would know and they would have told me. That was my first mistake, honestly. Especially when dealing with narcissistic/sociopathic personalities, the outer friendship circle who is not intimately involved with them will believe who he presents himself to be because they are masters at creating the facade.
Anyhow, when I read back through the messages from multiple women, I realized that he wasn't posting about his wife or anyone in his past because he was wooing multiple women at the same time, telling several of them he would leave his wife for them. Of course, none of them knew about one another at the time.
I seemed to be the only woman he "shouted from the rooftops" but I was also the only woman he targeted that had a brand, a bit of industry clout at the time, and a way to possibly get his furniture made on a bigger scale. It all makes complete sense, now, but back then, I simply believed what he told me. His very vocal profession of love had nothing to do with love and everything to do with personal gain.
I hope that by sharing these types of revelations, it will help others who have either been through it and can relate or it will help those who are on the look out to avoid this type of predator.
If you have similar stories, I'd love to hear about them either in comment or private message. The more we share, the more we can help other women (and men) make their own handbook for what to look out for and how to discern if someone is a charismatic, charming con artist like Dirty John.
The whirlwind and constant focus on the Ted Talk meant I had to ditch working on the book for a bit. And I honestly wonder if I subconsciously had to get through the talk first in order to write the next few chapters of the memoir.
I’m about 17,000 words into the tale of the journey I’ve been on and I’m feeling stronger than ever. Prior to baring my soul on stage, I’d been dreading drudging up the past to write the next chapter. You know, THAT chapter of my life. It’s still not easy to think back to the days of walking on egg shells, intoxicating highs and desperately low lows, financial devastation, and being called a “thick fucking brick” but I knew in order to keep moving forward in the memoir, I’d have to face it. Just like I faced being vulnerable on the Ted stage. I didn’t feel ready to relive those three years until this very moment. I can’t really explain it, but something has changed in me. Maybe it’s called healing? Whatever it is, I’m grateful for the feeling.
Ironically, one of the folks who organized Tedx Sedona said to me, in tears, “I can’t believe how much you’ve been through yet there’s such a lightness about you.” I feel lighter. Prior to the Ted Talk, the thought of looking back at that period of my life and having to recount it—one abusive episode after the next—paralyzed me. Now, for some reason, I feel like I can take it on and not absorb it.
It’s been a year and a half since I received the first email from a brave woman telling me her story (and screenshots) about being used and abused by him while he was still trying to keep me on the hook, and here I am, finally ready to take on the memory of it all head on.
Turns out, I’ve got this. I can write this. And that chapter I’m about to write—tentatively called “TNF”—will lead to the next one which is undoubtedly the best chapter of my life.
Maybe we all have chapters we have to get through to get where we’re supposed to be.
I know one thing: it’s time to fire up the keyboard, again.
This past weekend, I completed what is the equivalent of running a marathon for me—a Ted Talk. And I lived!
Not only did I meet the most amazing people from all over the world, I got the chance to talk about healing from childhood and adulthood abuse on a big stage with a big red dot. (I’ll tell you later how I “fell off the red dot” at one point because you know, it’s hard to stay on a rug while you’re speaking. Ha!)
I’m constantly amazed by how much we are guided and helped to be where we need to be at the right time.
And I was even more thrilled to look out into the crowd and see my husband and kids proudly smiling back at me, and sometimes with tears in their eyes. None of this road I’ve traveled has been easy on them and it affected all three of them deeply in many ways.
After the talk was over and Noah was heading home, I got a message from him saying that I was a kick-ass woman who is going to change the world. Of course, I teared up reading that. I’m just overwhelmed with love and admiration for Scott, Noah, and Grace, and I’m so eternally grateful they are mine. And I hope with all my heart, our children and their children will never have to experience anything I did in their lifetime.
If my Ted Talk opens up channels of communication with just two people about the bigger picture of life, stuff that can’t be explained by science, patterns of abuse, repression, and rebuilding life after all of it, I am a happy woman.
For now, I’m going to kick back and relax and NOT MEMORIZE ANYTHING for a long time.
Now what was I doing? Oh right…NOT MEMORIZING ANYTHING and enjoying being exactly where I am at this very moment.
More on the topic of memory loss related to abuse:
Here's a snippet of the Ted Talk that was filmed by our son, Noah. The official Ted Talk video will be uploaded to TED in a couple months, I believe. They produce a beautiful video for each presenter. So grateful! You can find more info on Tedx Sedona at www.tedxsedona.com.
I sat on the couch yesterday morning watching CBS cover something I didn’t even know happened over the weekend: #whyIdidntreport in response to the Brett Kavanaugh assault allegations.
Then today, I watched as the networks covered the Bill Cosby sentencing.
It got me thinking—I’ve never spelled out why I didn’t report my childhood abuser. And what happened when I started talking about it. In addition, I want to share what happened when I started talking about the abuse I endured as an adult.
I did not report my uncle because I repressed the memories of abuse, and subsequently didn’t put together all of the clues until I was 40. At that point, it was so far past the statute of limitations that I couldn’t even try to hold him accountable legally. I was 5. I finally understood what happened to me at age 40. (According to many psychology experts and my own survey work, this is common with extreme childhood abuse.) Not only did I have physical “proof” in the form of vaginal surgery at age 19, but as a medium, I also had help clarifying the harrowing visions I was seeing. My dear friend and internationally renowned medium, Necole Stephens, tapped into the rape scene and managed to describe (without knowing a thing) details like drapes, room set up, room color, bedspread detail, and much more. Now, I couldn’t remember it all to a T but when I shared what Necole said with my sister (whose memory is spot on), she confirmed it all. I finally knew what happened to me and connected the dots of my life. And it finally made sense why so many of the kids in spirit who were killed by pedophiles were coming to share messages with me.
But then there was the telling.
When I discovered it all, I told my parents who were devastated. I assured them it was not their fault. No one could have known. Most predators are just that good. I'm learning that year after year as I help law enforcement with cold cases (If you just thought to yourself, "WHAT??!! She works with cops?? I thought she built furniture??", go to HERE for an endorsement by ex-NYPD detective, Mark Pucci). Sure, there were clues but they couldn’t have known. They believed me, for the most part, but I still think that unsure part was mostly shock. I know it’s hard to receive that kind of news. They knew who he was as a person and what he’d done with hundreds of women so it wasn’t a far stretch to think he’d also abuse young children. I know I’m not the only child. There are at least 4 more who are now grown.
Now, when I told his ex-wife, I received what most survivors are told.
“You must be mistaken.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“ We weren’t together enough.”
Denial? Probably. Heart wrenching for me? Absolutely. It take so much courage to come out and share what happened because there's shame and fear around all of it. Deep-seeded, subconscious shame that keeps most survivors from talking, even childhood survivors like me. But also, if they do talk, they know they may get the shamed, blamed and/or dismissed…again.
I saw this happen AGAIN when I shared the narcissistic abuse I endured as an adult. Many of his long-time supporters can’t fathom he could be one way on social media and another in real life. So instead of looking at the facts. The public record documents like restraining orders and such, they call me crazy. Call me a liar. And here’s the thing: most of them are WOMEN.
If you are one of the folks wondering why women (and men) don’t report sexual abuse (and other types of abuse), maybe consider this: Not only is it dangerous for many survivors, we know we will likely be re-abused in more ways than one. We simply don't believe survivors as a society. Cosby drugged and abused 60 women. Some folks STILL don't believe he did it.
Bottom line: Stop shaming and dismissing survivors because you feel uncomfortable. Because you don’t want to look at it without rose-colored glasses. Because you believe the façade. Just stop.
Abuse is a silent epidemic and thank god many of us refuse to be silent anymore. It is not our job to protect our abusers. Never has been, never will be. #ENOUGH #TIMESUP
Today, I’m 45.
And I’m so freakin’ excited about it! The journey, as many of you know, has been less than smooth but I feel like I have my wings again. I'm waiting to hear if I got selected for Ted Talk Sedona and I'm about 30K words into a memoir I'm writing.
Scott brought me to a beautiful hotel for a day and a night of relaxation. It’s been just that. I even took a nap yesterday—something my go-go-go wiring doesn’t let me do often.
After we left the spa pool, we took a walk over to the Desert Zen Intention Labyrinth Journey. It looks like a maze but it’s anything but a left-brain puzzle. The way in is the way out—one path leading to the center of your deepest self and back out again with a broadened understanding of life.
Scott reminded me that when we were separated, he visited his aunt and uncle in Birmingham where they installed a labyrinth in their back yard. He stepped into the walking meditation asking the question about us. Specifically, he was hopeful that we would find our way back to each other but unsure what he should do. He walked with purpose asking this question and heard something to the effect of, “patience.” Or so that’s what he remembered but he couldn’t quite remember exactly what the line was that helped him understand his role in 2016.
Yesterday, he walked the labyrinth again with the intention of gratitude. The exact line he’d heard the first time came back to him. It was “stay the course.”
And I’m so glad he did. He stayed the course of being kind, loving, and concerned all the while owning his part of our separation. We both grew and healed.
When I read the directions for the labyrinth, I was reminded that it is truly a way to focus your body on an activity so that you can open yourself to your intuition. When I first started channeling messages from kids in spirit, most times, I was doing something physical like building furniture. Or driving a car. Or walking.
Many people feel they need to take classes and meditate hours on end to access their own inner knowing and channel messages from spirit. It’s never been that way for me. Plus, let’s call a spade a spade: I’m way too ADD for that. I think all of that is useful and to each his own, but I don’t necessarily think you need to study intuition to access it. Pay attention to when you get “downloads.” Is it in the car? Shower? During exercise?
You might be wondering what happened when I walked the labyrinth. Well, because I was so focused on walking it, I thought about what we were doing for dinner and concentrated on not tripping. Some kind of spirit medium I am, right?!?!
P.S. Last night at dinner, spirit did come in wanting me to share a message with a fellow diner. But I’ll keep that one to myself because it’s not my story to tell.