This post is going to have precious little to do with my usual weight loss and a hell of a lot to do with making peace with the ghosts of your past. It is also insanely long and has only one picture, which is at the end. Not scared yet? Please continue.
This particular ghost in question has nothing to do with my food demons, but I’ve been battling this monster since I was 15 years old. In order to explain, we have to go back to that time…
I should warn you that this story might be upsetting for some. It certainly is to me, even 35 years later. Time to get it out, though, so here it goes.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s teenage years are awkward. Mine were no exception. When I was 15 years old, I had a problem with my knee and had to take a year of adaptive physical education. That’s where I met a boy who eventually became a good friend. We’ll call him Randy. That’s not his real name.
Randy and I became good friends and hung out together a lot that summer. His family was kind of a mess like mine, so we had that in common. My family, like many alcoholic families, loved to focus on other less fortunate people to steal attention away from the fact that we didn’t have our shit together either. They felt sorry for Randy’s situation and welcomed him into our family with open arms. He loved it because, frankly, there wasn’t much love in his house. Everything was just dandy. For awhile.
At the end of the summer, Randy pulled me aside and confessed his undying love for me. Uh…
Maybe I should’ve been flattered, but he was my friend. I felt only friendship for him and my 15 year old brain didn’t know how to handle this turn of events. My mother and sisters were no help. I was basically told it was all very sweet and adorable, interlaced with my mother reminding me that I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 anyway. And that was fine with me because I didn’t want to date him.
He started buying me gifts. I absolutely adored Snoopy and he bought me everything with a Snoopy on it that he could find. I accepted them because I thought it was mean not to. I was a teenager, for fucks sake. No adult was giving me any guidance. I had no idea that I was just encouraging him.
School went back in session and that’s when things started to take a turn for the worse. See, I wasn’t popular. I wasn’t UNpopular, but I stayed to myself and my little group of four girlfriends. I had no time for school activities because I was in dance all the time. My life was outside of school as far as I was concerned…so no one really knew me. Now hold onto your asses because this is going to shock the hell out of those of you who’ve been reading this blog for awhile: I was shy. Shut up, I really was shy around people I didn’t know. I was a total nut around my girlfriends, but around other kids at school…not so much. It wasn’t easy for me to trust people.
Anyway, Randy had lost a bunch of weight at the end of summer and went out and bought all new clothes to impress me. He showed up at school and all the girls went NUTS. He did look amazing. I was really happy for him. The cheerleaders were especially ga-ga over him. I thought to myself “Good! Go find a girlfriend and I’m happy for you!!”
That’s not what happened.
Girls started flirting and asking him to dances. Did he like it? No. Did he turn them down graciously? No, he didn’t. His standard reply (and I shit you not) was “I’m sorry, but when it comes to beauty you just don’t hold a candle to Dianne.”
You can imagine how that went over. Not only were these girls understandably hurt, they turned their anger on ME. Because who was I to compare to them, right? They were gorgeous and popular cheerleaders ‘n shit. Or at least one of them was. All the girls in question were prettier than me. Their clothes were perfect, their make-up was flawless. These girls had it together. And then there was 15 year old me wearing nothing but t-shirts and jeans and lugging around a tote bag with Morris the cat on it. A fashion plate if ever there was one.
The entire school year was hell. Randy didn’t budge in his “love” for me. He doodled my name all over his notebooks. He brought me up in conversations with everyone. He was clearly obsessed.
Family life started to get extra hellish as well. He already had everyone’s sympathy in my family and he started playing it to his advantage. Poor Randy. Dianne doesn’t love him. Why, God, why? My sisters started pressuring me to be nicer to him. My mother too. Still so much conflicting information. Be nice…but not TOO nice. Not like THAT, understand?
There wasn’t one moment when anyone in my family considered that they were pushing me out and bringing Randy in. I was already dealing with the asshole dance teacher (you remember him, right? Told me I was fat at nine years old? Yeah, him). My parents were separated, so my barely-there father was non-existent. My girlfriends were all involved in school activities. I don’t remember even trying to talk to any of them about it. I was just trying to handle it as best I could, but I was quickly feeling like I didn’t matter – even to my own family.
It went on and on like this for months. He would pressure me to go to a school dance with him, I’d say no. He’d mope around in front of my family, they’d chastise me for being mean. Over and over and over again. And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, he started showing up at the dance studio to watch me dance. He made friends with my friends. He met “the King”. He knew everyone. To them, he was this sweet teddy bear of a guy who had an adorable crush on Dianne.
To me, he was a close friend that I didn’t trust as much as before for some reason…who caused me a ton of pain and had wedged himself between me and my family. And now he was infiltrating the dance studio.
I started refusing the gifts. Mom (and quite a few others) came down on me swiftly. It was mean and ungracious to refuse to accept them. He’s such a sweet boy. What’s my problem? Why can’t I just be nice?
Towards the end of the school year, I started sliding into a pretty sad place…emotionally speaking. I felt there was no place where I was welcome. No one thought I was nice. No one was on my side in this crazy shit. I felt trapped and I didn’t know what to do. Then the King, my dance teacher, asked to see me. Shit.
He pulled me aside with the expression of a concerned, loving father, which always set me on edge. He was not a loving or concerned person. He was a despicable person who took every opportunity to hurt and manipulate me. Even back then I felt it was true, thought it would be years before I had the courage to break away from him. He sat me down and asked me how things were going. Fine. That was always my standard answer. My family had long instilled that standard reply in my head. We didn’t need to burden others with our troubles. We’re always fine.
Of course, he brought Randy into the conversation. And there it was. With all the fake concern he could muster, he proceeded to tell me that I needed to give Randy a chance.
Go ahead and ask me why he said that. Go ahead. Why?
Because a girl like me with ten extra pounds on her should feel lucky to have ANY boy’s attention.
Not even kidding. He said that shit.
I let him say what he had to say. I listened to it. When I look back at times like these I wish to God someone, some adult somewhere, had taught me to have some balls and stand up for myself. I just listened. And I left feeling like there was truly something wrong with me because I didn’t have romantic feelings for Randy.
I started shutting everyone out. It hurt too much to be told all the damn time how mean and horrible I was because poor Randy was hurt. Everyone obviously had more love for him than me. So fine, I’ll back out. I hope you’re all happy with each other. By the time the school year was ending, I was making plans to leave home and never come back. I didn’t know where I would go, but it was better than putting up with this hell.
I remember walking home from school alone one day when Randy’s brother came walking up beside me. He wanted to tell me that he was sorry for what I was going through. He told me he didn’t think it was right that his brother was turning everyone against me so much. We talked all the way home and I remember feeling happy for the first time in a long time just because someone understood that my life was hell.
Then something really horrible happened.
My mom had to leave for an hour and I didn’t want to go with her, so she left and told me to lock the door behind her. We had just been fighting…over Randy. What a shocker. In my teenage anger, I decided not to listen to her and left the front door unlocked – but the screen door was locked. Sure, it was only locked with a thin strip of metal, but I was a teenager…so I was invincible. About ten minutes later, there was a knock at the door.
He was crying. I rolled my eyes as soon as I saw the tears. What the hell did I do now?
He told me that he’d seen me talking to his brother and that he was so hurt because he finally understood what was going on. Obviously, I’d been secretly dating his brother the entire time and THAT is why I wouldn’t go out with him.
I was so angry. I started yelling and I couldn’t stop. I let it all out: how I felt about him manipulating everyone, shutting me out, being so obsessed with me. I emphatically denied dating his brother (for the 500th time, I wasn’t even allowed to date).
The whole time he stood there, he was holding something behind his back. I didn’t know what it was. I assumed it was flowers or another Snoopy. Whatever it was, I told him I didn’t want it. I told him to go home and come back in an hour when my mom would be home so that she could punish me AGAIN and he could get sympathy AGAIN. I slammed the door in his face.
I stepped back and watched to make sure that he left. I couldn’t see him through the window in our front door because it had a sheer curtain over it, but I could see his shadow. I saw him pull something out from behind his back. It was long and sort of bulky. He was pointing it in the air for some reason…and, just when I started realizing what it was, the loudest boom I’d ever heard in my life made me jump right out of my skin.
A gun. He was firing a gun.
As long as I live, I’ll never forget that moment in my life. After a second of absolute terror, I bolted down the hall and locked myself in the bathroom. Hysterical and crying, I waited for another shot. He hadn’t hit me, thank God. It didn’t take me too long to realize I’d just done the dumbest thing I could do: I barricaded myself in a room with no exit. What was I going to do…wait until he found me and then let him kill me?
I don’t know how I found the courage to do it, but I opened the bathroom door and stuck my head out to see what I could see. I had an open bottle of rubbing alcohol in my hand in case he was right there. Logic, huh? I was going to try and throw it in his eyes if he caught me coming out into the hallway.
All clear…but I could see his shadow on the living room carpet. I didn’t know if he was inside or outside. He fired again and started screaming my name. I ran into my parents’ bedroom and shut the door, but the lock on the damn door had been broken for years. No way to be safe in here, but the phone was here.
I grabbed the phone and called the police. We didn’t have sub-stations back then and they were a good 30 minutes from me, but I had to try. I told the dispatcher what was going on and she desperately tried to get me to calm down.
Another shot rang out.
She asked if I could get out of the house safely. I told her I didn’t know where he was. She told me to get out if I could and run to a neighbor’s house, so that’s what I did. I kicked the screen out of my parent’s window and climbed out. I ran straight into my neighbor’s house, no knocking, and hid behind one of their living room chairs. Mrs. Smith (surprise, also not her real name) was scared to death. She was like a second mother to me. She had no idea what was going on.
Randy wrapped the rifle up in a towel and walked home to wait for the police. He’d been crouched outside my parent’s bedroom window and heard everything. The fact that he went from crazy to calmly walking home was one of the first times in my life that I remember knowing that there’s a God. He could have killed me and the Smith family for sheltering me, but he calmed down and walked home. No rhyme or reason.
My mother arrived home to find four police cars in her driveway and her daughter missing.
Mrs. Smith went over to tell them where I was. I remember a police officer standing over me and trying to talk me out from behind the chair. I could see his lips moving, but I couldn’t hear a sound. It was like I was underwater or something. To this day, I don’t remember the sound of his voice. I simply didn’t hear it. When I heard my mom crying and I saw her, I came out.
It took about 30 minutes before I could find the words to talk. I remember being freezing cold, even though it was a warm California day. I couldn’t stop shivering. A few officers stayed with us and the rest headed to Randy’s house.
All of this happened before there were anti-stalking laws, so basically this meant that he had to actually shoot me in order for the cops to do anything about it. He hadn’t. I was unharmed, physically anyway.
The cops took him into custody and confiscated the rifle he’d fired. They left the other 17 guns in the house. Randy was locked up for observation for 48 hours. That’s the best they could do. No charges were filed because I didn’t have a mark on me.
Suddenly my family went from telling me how horrible I was to being concerned about me. I was scared to death, but I was relieved to at least have my family back. I saw Randy when he wasn’t there. Any loud noise put me into instant hysterics. I was constantly afraid of strangers around me, afraid that they would hurt me. I was afraid to be alone, but when I was with people I was still afraid. I was always afraid. I’m sure I had either post traumatic stress or something like it.
It was the last week of school. The police told Randy he couldn’t go back because he had to stay away from me, so his teachers let him finish from home. My friends walked me from class to class because I was afraid. And, even though I thought things couldn’t get any worse, a rumor went around the school that I was raped.
I wasn’t raped. He never touched me.
Trying to help, my sisters called the school and told the principal that they weren’t convinced I wasn’t raped. LOL. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up. It’s like a really horrible reality show. I was called to the principal’s office to talk. A social worker, a police officer, the school nurse and my school counselor were all waiting for me. I sat with them for an hour, repeating the story and telling them again that I was not raped. They finally believed me, but the damage was done. Again.
So that’s the story of the ghost I’ve been carrying with me for years. I was probably in my 30’s before car backfires didn’t leave me in tears. It took me a long time to get over this.
By the way, Randy stayed away from me after that. A year later, he was coming home from a camping trip when he was killed in a car wreck. I was sad about it…and I still am. He was a good person before this whole episode, and I had faith that he would be again.
Back to the ghost…
Hot Mess Hubby is a country boy who grew up in Texas. He also served in the Marine Corps for six years. That means he likes guns. It wasn’t a problem in California because you need 37 permits to even think about owning a gun there. We weren’t living in Texas for very long when he brought the first one home.
I cleaned around the thing. I was afraid to pick it up. And I can’t even adequately describe how much I freaked out when he would clean it and the barrel would even come close to pointing at me. (And let me just say here, HMH would NEVER point a gun at me. He is the safest person I know. So if you’re not a gun person, please don’t think we’re one of those families who accidentally shoots grandpa on Christmas because we’re just playing with our guns in the house.)
I don’t like being afraid of things. It sucks. I’m actually pretty afraid of bridges. What did I do about it? I walked the Golden Gate Bridge, bitches. I like the feeling I get when I don’t let my fears win. So when we moved to Texas, I was determined to make my peace with guns. I don’t think anyone should live in a home where there are firearms if they don’t know how to handle them safely.
In 2014, one of my new year’s resolutions was to get my concealed handgun license (CHL). I had done so many fabulous things in my life that I was sure it was time to get over the gun thing. I went to the gun range with HMH, which I’d done a few times when pressed to do so. It didn’t go well. Even with double ear protection, the sound of gunfire had me in tears within minutes. I was okay with HMH and I was even sort of okay firing a gun, but not with other people firing near me. I was terrified.
I didn’t get my CHL last year. It was too much for me. It felt like what trying to run a marathon when I weighed 383 pounds would have felt like. Too much, too soon. I gave up.
Now it’s 2015 and I’ve conquered even MORE badass shit. I’ve lost 116 pounds and 8 sizes in clothes…there’s no limit to what I can do, right? So I’ve been to the range a few more times. Still pretty terrified. But about a month ago, something pretty awesome happened: I found a group of badass chicks called A Girl & A Gun. They’re into competition shooting and educating women about gun safety. And a friend of mine made me realize that, as much as I love him, HMH is really not a very good teacher when it comes to guns. So I went to a meeting. At the gun range. By myself.
It was really weird walking into the gun range without HMH, carrying our crappy little .22 and a box of ammo in a Kate Spade tote bag (hey, just because I’ve got a gun doesn’t mean I have to carry it in a backpack, peeps. Handbag ho forever!)
But I did it. And it was awesome.
It was so great to get to hear about the whole gun thing from a woman’s perspective. Most of the women in the group are competition shooters. The ladies who run the group are patient teachers and all the ladies in the group are welcoming and just plain badass. I stuck with our crappy .22 for the first meeting. At the second meeting, I had the courage to fire a few higher caliber guns. I was afraid of most of them, but the sheer sense of comraderie made me feel safer than I’ve ever felt at a gun range. These women were my sisters and they were going to make sure I knew what I was doing when I was ready. They let me set my own pace, but they offered help and let me decide what I wanted to do. They graciously showed me their guns and explained what they were. They offered me to try them all. They created a safe place for me to explore something that used to terrify me.
Not long after, I started shopping for my own gun. I was just curious at first, but it got to be fun looking for something of my own. Last week I found a gun that doesn’t freak me out…and I started learning how to handle myself when a gun jams.
Today I went to the gun range with HMH again…and even he’s noticed how much more relaxed I am. I still jump when a stranger is firing a high caliber weapon anywhere near me, but I’m much more confident than I was. I’m slowly squeezing the 15 year old victim out of my head. It feels pretty good, peeps. It feels pretty damn good.
If you want to learn more about gun safety and shooting, I highly recommend connecting with a women’s only group. As much as the men in our lives may love us, there are some things women can teach us better…and that includes how to shoot around the hooters. 🙂 Go find A Girl and A Gun chapter near you.
I’ll keep you posted…