OUT OF THE DARKNESS
The past two weeks have been heavy on me. Not in a bad way but it’s really been a time to be reflecting on my life and my relationship with my family. My father came all the way from New Jersey to see me. This is a huge deal because when I first told him about my job it was awkward talking to him - which he didn’t do much with me. It’s taken about a year but our time in LA was amazing. He has a dark past like me - albeit way worse than mine - but through all that he was able to put his beliefs aside right now and just spend the week with me. So, that was a great start to this magical two weeks.
I also volunteered for the first time at a charity walk for people in the world affected by suicide whether it be survivors or people who have lost someone from suicide. I was in charge of the table with all the different colored Mardi Gras beads which I thought would be the fun table. But I quickly learned it was the worst. Each bead represented how suicide has impacted you. I guess it helps people to not be afraid of identifying their struggles. Anyway, I was crying within minutes because of two very kind older ladies when standing by me with their white beads from my table. Well white beads meant you lost a child. And then a very quiet gentleman came over, read the color meanings (lost a child, lost a spouse, lost a friend or relative, lost someone in the military and if you’re a survivor) Well this gentleman was obviously very upset and I didn’t blame him. But he took almost every single color. I can only assume he’s been through hell. So yeah not the fun table. My green survivor necklace invited people to come ask me about it. I know we were all there to have companionship but it was still awkward. I did feel so good when we wrapped out though. I fell in love with their drive and goals and I’ll be getting a lot more involved with them. Possibly even publicly speaking about my story.
This week must have just got me soul searching left and right. I woke up at 5AM with my life flashing before me - mainly this nine year struggle that I’m finally starting to beat. It was so vivid and so loud that I had to get up and start writing. I just wrote and wrote and eventually looked up to see I had being going at it for four hours. It’s rough but it’s raw and truthful. Hope you enjoy.
I had a pretty good childhood. I came from a good family. Sometimes I feel bad for them because I brought so much heartache and trouble while I was still young. I remember everything being perfect up until I turned thirteen. I felt a strange darkness starting to come over me that I blamed on hormones and the confusion of puberty. But to me this darkness always felt heavier, these “hormones” never seemed to make my friends feel so alone, helpless and lost.
High school was not good to me. It was not the best four years of my life by any means. I felt like I was carrying a heavy weight around every single day and it felt like everyone around me could see it. I tried very hard to fit in. Anywhere. Just so I wouldn’t feel this crippling loneliness. I started to enjoy self mutilation and when my parents found out they had a talk with me. They said it was a phase and I would grow out of it. I honestly thought they were right. I kept telling myself it would end because it was just puberty. It was just hormones.
At fifteen the darkness felt the most unbearable it had ever been before. I was too afraid to tell anyone because I was already labeled as “the dramatic one”. So I quietly took a bottle of pills from the medicine cabinet and proceeded to swallow handfuls of drugs. I just wanted this heavy weight that felt like it was crushing my skull to go away. But I woke up the next morning. Sick, but alive. I continued about my day like nothing had happened. I figured last night was just a lapse in judgement. Everyone always told me I was too emotional, too dramatic - that must have been what it was. Every teenager must go through this. I held it at bay for a couple years.
When I was sixteen years old I took my parents pistol from their bedroom and walked out into the forest behind our house for a long time. I just remember sitting on a stump crying and screaming into the trees with the gun in my mouth for what felt like hours. I could literally hear one voice in my head yelling at me to pull the trigger and a second voice in my head pleading me to stop. I knew that I could find the freedom from the darkness right behind that trigger. All I could picture was someone finding my body and somehow I walked out of those woods. With tears streaming down my face I walked up to my mother and handed the gun to her. Once she realized I had stolen it and what my intentions had been I could tell she was upset - it was never mentioned or spoken about.
I used to harbor a lot of hate for my parents. I don’t think it was justified. I believe the hate stemmed from the fact that I felt they should be doing something about the darkness. I blamed them for a long time but I hope they know that nothing was their fault. No person, no parent, is prepared for something like this. It’s easy for someone to sit behind a computer screen reading this and say “Well she literally handed you a gun that she tried to shoot herself with - how could you not see that as a sign to do something?” And I felt like that for a long time, but how dare you or me or anyone act like we would know what to do in a situation like that. It’s taken me a long time to dispel the resentment I built up towards my family. They didn’t try to make me feel like an outcast - there was no way they could have known about how bad the darkness in my mind really was. It’s impossible. I know a lot of parents who have lost their children to suicide and every single one of them never saw it coming. My parents have always been there for me. They’ve always loved me but for a long time I was screaming from the inside out and I blamed them for not hearing it. I’m lucky enough to still have them in my life and be able to talk about this. I’m lucky enough to see how supportive and amazing they are with my younger sister who started struggling with the darkness at the same age I did. I’m not angry anymore. I’m not jealous that my sister is getting the help I didn’t. I’m happy and I’m grateful. I don’t just campaign to end the stigma against mental illness, I campaign to end the stigma against the friends and family of victims. It’s no one’s fault and I hate to see people say “You should have done this” or “They should have done that”. This is not easy. There is no handbook. The judgement of all parties involved is what needs to be stopped. I will forever be grateful to have my parents as a representation of what strength is. Even if they didn’t realize the severity of my pain - they saved my life when I had all but destroyed it.
Around eighteen years old I discovered drugs. Amazing drugs. Drugs I could take and they seemed like the answer to the darkness living in my mind. The first time I ever got high I felt free. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I didn’t feel sad. I guess they called them “uppers” for a reason because I had never had my mood lifted so high before. I thought I finally found out how to get rid of the darkness. But soon I was taking so much, so often, that my chemically induced happiness started to fade. I couldn’t let that happen.
When I used a needle for the first time I was terrified. I had always told myself and everyone around me that I “wasn’t like that”. But when I did - it surpassed the happiness I felt the first time I got high. It was perfect. It was beautiful. I felt no sadness, no pain and no darkness. It was so overwhelming and so peaceful that I thought I could live like that forever. But that happiness faded quicker. I needed more. Eventually this sent me into a downward spiral. I was constantly chasing this drug because it was the only way I felt normal. Do you know what it does to a chick running around different hoods? Selling dope to pay for her habit? Doing anything it took to get her high? The people I’ve met? The things I’ve had done to me - the things I’ve done to other people? I thought I was making the darkness go away when in reality I was feeding it even more. One day I had a moment of clarity when all the people I was surrounded with started dying or being taken to prison. Those were my only two options unless I did something differently.
It’s funny when you’re using you live in this fantasy world that you and everything around you is perfectly fine and exactly the same. Then you get sober and look back at the past time and you’ve left your family, your friends, your job and your entire life in painful shambles. What it felt like for me was as if I was naively walking along, looking ahead at a beautifully paved road with pleasant lush scenery along each shoulder but then I would turn to look back at where I had just been and there would be the same road - barren, buildings on fire and the people I loved standing back there screaming for me. There had been a veil over my eyes for a long time.
But I got help. My parents are amazing people. They saved my life. My father struggled with addiction as well and has been sober for a long time now. Him and I are terrifyingly similar. But he got me through it all. The thing is, after all the drugs dissipated and I wasn’t relying on chemicals anymore - that darkness came back with a vengeance. It felt like I had been numbing it for so long that it all came back at once. That was the night, at nineteen years old, I tried heroin for the first time. And by try I mean I repeatedly stuck the needle in my arm one after another, injecting myself with a lethal dose. I went to sleep that night with the realization and full intention that I would not wake up the next morning. When I closed my eyes for the last time knowing it would be impossible to wake up from this - I had never felt happier. I had beat the darkness.
Imagine my surprise and hatred when I woke up the next morning. Dope sickness is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. I was violently ill for days. My parents thought the heroin binge was just a relapse - but I never was addicted to heroin. To this day I don’t like the stuff - I just knew it could kill me the easiest. But somehow I woke up and I can’t explain why.
Eventually withdrawals stopped and I learned how to be a normal functioning member of society again. Cleaned up, got a job, started working out a lot and was even in a new relationship with an amazing man. I moved out of my parents house and although I knew the darkness was there I was sure I had grown out of it by now. It was a phase. I wasn’t going through puberty anymore. I should be okay.
But at twenty two years old it came over me in a wave again. This darkness was the most familiar thing I had known my whole life. It always felt the same. I always knew what it was when it hit me - and at this point I was so used to it that I knew exactly what to do and didn’t think twice about it. So I went into my kitchen and slit my wrist open so wide that I could see the tendon. I had sliced right into it. I never liked gore. I had never seen that much blood in my life. I always wanted to go out easily and calmly but nothing ever worked. So I fell to the kitchen floor - in shock of just how much blood our bodies can lose before we pass out.
My now-financé went into the kitchen, saw me and wrapped a tourniquet around my arm. Got me to the hospital where I was stitched up and asked about what had happened. I lied up and down in fear that they would put me away somewhere. Maybe I should have been put away. To that day I had never seen a therapist or anyone, for that matter, that was actually equipped to help me. But I didn’t think I needed any help. I thought I was just overly emotional. I thought I was just “the dramatic one”.
I just turned twenty-three this week. It’s been over a year since the last time I tried to commit suicide. When I used to remember my life I always thought all those instances where I tried to kill myself were weak points where my emotions got a little too overwhelming. I looked at all of them as single, unrelated events. I chalked most of them up to puberty and being a teenage girl. Until I realized, very recently, the darkness that had become my closest friend was not normal. It was not teenage emotions. It was not puberty. It was not a phase. It was not drug withdrawals. It was depression. It was anxiety. It was mental illness. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be brushed off. And it cannot be resolved by taking a pill.
The past year has been very different for me. Very healing. There was a sense of peace I vaguely remember having as a child before all of this started. I seem to have found that again. It’s not the feeling of keeping the darkness at bay like the previous nine years. It’s different because it’s a sense of light. It’s a very deep rooted light that was so smothered by darkness for so long that it was almost unnoticeable. I remember some instances when amidst the overwhelming darkness this light poked through and I could just barely feel it’s warmth. But those were short lived as the darkness engulfed and pulled it back very quickly. It always seemed to be a futile struggle between the darkness - the most powerful thing I ever felt - powerful enough to deem my life unnecessary and the light - a faint feeling rooted deep inside me - so saturated by darkness that I could barely hold a grip on it. Nine years later this is the first time I’ve felt the light engulfing the darkness. As I sit here writing this I’m crying - not because I’m sad. But because I feel like I’ve been kicking, screaming, fighting and running through battle fields for such a long time and finally have found a quiet, calm pasture where I can lay down and rest for a moment. I feel a huge sense of relief. I can’t say the battle is over because I will deal with this for the rest of my life. But right now, for the first time in a long time, the light has absolved the darkness.
I feel in tune. I feel aware. Not just with sounds, smells and physical things but with emotions, vibrations and the connectivity of humans to humans. Like I said, I still have my struggles and I’m not out of the water but I’m taking this moment of clarity and doing what I can with it to help myself and help the people around me. This is what got me started in my volunteer work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I finally have a moment where maybe I can do something with this. I can let people know to stop telling our kids they are overly dramatic, too emotional or going through a phase. Stop looking at the parents of suicide victims like it’s their fault the darkness won. Stop judging adults who have a mental illness just because that diagnosis makes you uncomfortable. Stop stigmatizing suicide like it’s something that defines me. It’s easy for anyone to say that because of my past that, in turn, is the reason for the profession I’m in right now. It’s easy for people to say “Well yeah, no wonder she’s a pornstar. Previous drug addict. Troubled past. Mental illness. Makes sense, doesn’t it?” No. None of this “makes sense”. Mental illness does not define me. It doesn’t determine who I am, how I treat people or what I do for a living. It’s easy for people to disregard what I have to say because I live in a world unknown and taboo to them. It’s easy to label me as unreliable and unstable because of my career. Those are people who live with a thick veil over their eyes and I can’t do anything to change how they see the world. And they won’t make me angry and they won’t discredit me. If anything I feel badly for them.
I celebrated my twenty third birthday this week. I used to not think birthdays were a big deal until this year - mainly because I never counted on having a birthday every year. This time it was great. Twenty-three years and I wholeheartedly want to be alive. I was sitting in my new apartment the night of my birthday and I had an overwhelming sensation telling me to go visit the Frolic Room down on Hollywood and Vine. My dad had just come out to visit me last week and told me him and my mother first met there. So I had this vibe to go check it out, it’s my birthday, my parents met there - it would be cool. Well it was more than that. When I walked in I felt like I had gone through a time machine. This dark musty bar’s decor probably hadn’t changed in thirty years. It was busy, no stools, so I waited at the corner of the bar to order a drink. After some time a much older gentleman that had been perched in his spot at the end of the bar stood up, found me a stool in the back of the building, set it behind me to sit and walked away. No words. He went back to what I can only assume is his regular spot and I let the bartender know that his next beer was on me.
Eventually I went over and sat next to him. I told him that I just felt like I was supposed to talk to him. I let him know why I was there that night and his eyes lit up. He’s a poet and a writer. His name is Tony and the only words I can use to accurately describe him is he’s a cool cat. He’s a Vietnam Veteran, wearing all black and what looks to be a black beret and a small tan leather pouch necklace. He’s sitting in his spot at the very end of the bar, his back to the wall just surveying the place which he told me he’s been drinking at for fifty years. He told me the whole history of the place and let me know that it probably looked exactly how it did today on the night my parents first met. I told him the story of how they met. My mother has been telling me it ever since I was young.
My young rocker mom was sitting at the bar having a drink in the Frolic Room with her girlfriend, Blue. She says that she looked over at Blue having fun and joking around when she glanced at the door as my father, a stranger to her, walked into the bar. My mother goes to Blue: “Hah I’m going to marry that guy!” Well wasn’t it a surprise when my dad, nicknamed Chief around Hollywood, sat down, looked at my mother and said “Hey you, come here.” My dad’s side of the story is that when he sat down he saw her and felt he just needed her to be by him. The rest is their own history I guess. But now sitting in that bar where that happened - I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I am here not just because two people met in a bar, but because I am supposed to be here. Tony loved the story. Drinking in that bar for fifty years there’s even a chance he’s seen my parents. Either way, we understood why I had been drawn there and we were both happy we met. He was like a living piece of history from my parents past and there I was, on my birthday, talking to him about how everything in life comes full circle whether we choose to realize it or not. "Full circle baby, ain't it a trip?" he says. It was a heavy and surreal moment that I am so grateful for. Tony’s turning 73 on March 14th and I'll be stopping by the Frolic Room that night to wish him a happy birthday. Nowadays I’m looking forward to my birthdays too.