the smell of my desperation has become a stench

I said I was going to burn shit down today, and I am nothing if not dependable. Wink.

Happy New Year, my lovely, fellow loonies. I use that term affectionately, so it means you are beloved to me. You and you and you. I have so much to tell you. So much has happened, so many good things. A few sad and formidable things, but overall? I cannot wait to start writing more, sharing more. I am beyond excited about the projects I’m working on (the recipes! holy shit, I am cooking! edible things!), and we are going to get to all of that. We will get to Coco’s rapidly declining health very soon, too. But she deserves her own post. And I need to dry my tears until at least lunchtime.

Which means I have to stop watching this right now, but it might be a good palate cleanser for you, dear reader, before we get to the meat of January 7th, 2020:

There is something else we need to talk about today. Are you ready? You’re going to need to buckle up. Here we go.

I have learned that certain secrets brew to a point of such toxicity that the effects they have on one’s body can damage one’s physical being beyond recognition. Part of my gut illness this year was due in no small part to this poison. I am today finally free of that dizzying madness and feel an urgency to take a huge, steaming shit on the wholly immoral ways in which people have set about to demonize me to my peers. Two specific women are trying to soothe something in themselves. It has been vile. Vile. I will not back away from that word.

First and foremost, I am not a victim. I am an adult who made at times questionable decisions and at other times was faced with dilemmas that would damage someone I cared deeply about regardless of how kind I wanted to be to everyone involved. I fully recognize my role in all of this.

And this is my side of the story.

In August of 2016 during the peak of my suicidal depression I received a knock on the door of a condo I had rented while on vacation with my children. It was the husband of a friend, and he was devastated and wrecked. He was a husk of the man I had known for over three years. And I knew exactly why he was there, tears strewn across his face as if he’d been mauled. I hugged him and comforted him, because I knew.

We all knew.

We all had kept the secret. And honestly, his showing up made me feel better. That was an undeniably selfish reaction on my part, but when he knocked on my door I then knew that he knew. The secret had been lifted from my conscience. It didn’t cure my depression, not by a long shot, but I felt immediately lighter inside.

Friends of his wife had been tasked with keeping quiet about certain problematic behavior that had been going on for years. I was so naive that I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. Their business was their business. I was protecting him from immeasurable pain.

Until that pain showed up at my door in agony. And begged me for comfort. Instead of protecting him I had contributed to it. That business had become my business.

Having been a child in a family where certain adults behaved in this exact problematic way, I retreated into old, unhealthy habits. I buried my head in the sand. And that is all my fault. I accept and acknowledge this. I should have never remained quiet, or, at least… I should not have chosen to remain friends with someone who would require me or anyone else to pretend as if everything were normal.

It was not normal. None of it.

I now know that both of them used me. He would later exploit that knock on my door and my sympathy for him as part of a power struggle with her. Over three years later, she perpetuates a dossier of scandal about me. Her friend betrayed her, and she is the injured party. I have no doubt that when she reads this she will, like fire, try to burn me to the ground.

Oh, but here’s the rub. What hasn’t she said about me already? What hasn’t been written or whispered or deliberately misconstrued about me already? There are thousands and thousands of pages online filled with the comments of people who would like nothing more than to see me dead. I am a very scary single woman who wants to steal the husband you no longer love, your boyfriend who has a wandering eye. I am a drunk. I am a cheater and liar. I am a talentless fraud. I don’t love my children. Someone once wrote a dissertation — this is not an exaggeration in any way — about how I suffered Munchausen by proxy because Leta was very late to walk. I was making her sick so that she couldn’t walk in order to increase the popularity of my website. What else? Oh, right. I faked my miscarriage in 2007. Did I mention I’m going to steal your husband? Do keep that in mind!

So. Go ahead. You and whose army.

Mutual friends have sent me screenshots of comments this woman has left on Instagram posts of another woman, someone who once threatened to fly to Utah to slit my throat. She described several ways in which she wanted to kill me, but that is the one method I remember most vividly. Because of the detail in which she expressed how the scene would look so effortlessly gory afterward.

That woman and I had been close friends in 2012 when she made a Very Big Life Decision and chose to leave her husband. I wanted to show my support for the courage it took to take such a leap into the unknown since I was living through my own divorce. However, shortly after that stay several circumstances contributed to the fact that communicating with her at all was unhealthy and detrimental to my well-being. We did not speak again until three weeks after my propofol treatment in 2017.

She called me suddenly, abruptly. Out of nowhere. I answered because that treatment attracted to me in an almost mythical way people who suffer debilitating depression. She was suicidal, she said. She didn’t have the money for medication or the means to see a doctor. I felt that because I’d had the privilege of participating in the study that I owed it to anyone and everyone who suffers what I suffered my time and attention. So I set about a plan of action. She lived across the country, but I found her a doctor. I found her medication. I texted her briefly every day to check in.

Until.

Until a mutual friend of ours whom I had not spoken to in years called me — I’m the common denominator here, I know. Maybe it’s just me. Haven’t I considered that I’m the problem? Well, duh. That’s my go-to thought whenever anything goes wrong. You can try to guilt me and shame me and point a very disappointing finger at me, but you’ll never be as good at it as I am to myself.

She called me. Abruptly. Out of nowhere. I avoided her call until she texted me and said that she was in Paris. She’d found out that I was a helping our mutual friend and could not enjoy her time abroad until I listened to what she had to say. Which was: I was the fourth or fifth person this woman had lured into this sham. And, oh. What a fucking sham. She was not suicidal. She just wanted something else. That is not my story to tell, but this friend made me promise that I would call her ex-husband in order to understand the context of why she had reached out to me.

I hate talking on the phone. I loathe it. The last thing I wanted to do was to get more involved than I already was. But I took his call to honor the trust that the friend in Paris had invested in me. And for thirty minutes he and I chatted about what his ex really wanted, what he had himself tried to do to save her. It was cold and brisk and almost… lifeless. Yes, I will use that word here. It felt empty and lifeless. He felt like he had a duty to talk to me, and I felt the same in return.

And then. Abruptly. Out of nowhere. The moment before we said goodbye he brought up Radiohead. I don’t even remember why, but. The one song. The. One. Song. We all have one. And mine is “Let Down” by Radiohead, specifically a refrain that builds and builds toward the end when Thom Yorke starts wailing, “Floor collapsing, falling, bouncing back and one day, I am going to grow wings. A chemical reaction. Hysterical and useless.”

He had seen them a few months before that call and had a video of that exact refrain on Instagram. Didn’t I like them? He seemed to recall that I did.

We then talked and laughed for four hours.

I fell madly in love with him. I called him Thom. He called me Rachel (Rachel Owen was Thom Yorke’s longtime partner and mother of his two children). That love shot through my life like a stray, badly-aimed boomerang. It shattered glass and dented walls. I did not mean for it to happen. Neither did he. We talked every night for hours and hours. We laughed and sang into a certain time of morning I had not known since having infant children. I adored him. He was like no one I had ever encountered. And I loved him dearly.

He met my children. They loved him as much as I did. He brought them fidget spinners and cooked nachos and taught Marlo how to play several chords on the guitar. I feel nothing but deep tenderness for that man and always will. He is guileless. He is pure and honorable and has lived through horrors that would destroy anyone who doesn’t possess his resilience and joy.

To say that things became complicated in the following months would be an understatement of unmatched proportions.

Pete happened to me — that alone could be the end of this missive — and that is a story I will write very soon, but not now.

Not yet.

I eventually had a conversation with Thom’s ex wherein she threatened my life multiple times. I didn’t talk much. I let her swing a bat at my head for almost two hours. And I understood. She felt betrayed. She was the injured party. Yes, they were divorced. But that didn’t matter, and I recognize the pain I caused her. I never wanted to hurt her, but, of course, I did. I will carry the heaviness of that with me to my grave, whether I die of a slit throat or old age.

I know that they will all read this.

They will all see these words. And I suppose the reason I am saying anything at all is this: I may peddle the persona of someone who follows no rules and takes no shit, and that is mostly true. Don’t come after my kid because I will call your bishop, SON. But, oh, the unwritten rules of the Internet that have choked me into submission.

No more. Never again.

I write this next part giving full credit to Jon Armstrong and the work he has put into loving and showing up for his girls over the last year: When Jon moved to New York to live with his girlfriend, I said nothing. No one online knew. He left the day Marlo started kindergarten. I had to enroll her in intensive, twice-weekly therapy because she was physically crippled with separation anxiety. His leaving permanently altered her personality, and as healthy as she is now, as much as I have forgiven him — and my god, I can shout into a megaphone with no hesitation or pain in my voice from the memories of being alone in the face of All of The Things Needing to Get Done, I can say that my girls are lucky to have him and I am happy he is their father — it still happened. In silence.

These two women have bonded over their hostility toward me, and they know they cannot deny that. I avoid their comments and posts, but as you know, the Internet has its own way of sneaking up on you with what you do not need to see. Ask Pete about July 18, 2018 — we were in Paris, it was the day before my birthday and my mother mentioned someone’s Instagram post I had managed to avoid for over two weeks. The pain of that post nearly destroyed me, and the day culminated in a screaming match on the banks of the Seine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Luckily, we made up and he is sleeping next to me as I write this 18 months later.

I am human and make mistakes and have hurt people. Sometimes I find myself in a loop, and I promise I am not laying this at the foot of my father. He and I have found a common ground and an adoration of each other in the last year that I never thought possible. But there are times when the five and six and seven-year-old Heather B. Hamilton who is now 44 crawls inside of herself because of the fear. Because of the terror. Because the sound of the yelling coming from the room next to mine smothered me. Because I was forced to curl into a ball and absorb the pain instead of demanding that they take care of my pain.

I need to break that loop. My account here is my voice.

Oh, the rumors. They are so delicious, aren’t they? How very satisfying it must feel to spread salacious nothingness into the ears of my peers. It soothes the anger and pain, at least momentarily until that anger and pain resurface. Because, you see, I am not the source of it.

Several parts of the last three years of my life have been incredibly messy. I am trying to do and be better. And I have Heather and Kelly and Linda and Leta and Marlo and Pete to thank for loving me through it all. For loving me.

I have Pete, He Who Jumped Over Joleen, a story that will one day most definitely become part of a screenplay.

And that alone is proof enough to me that all the messiness I just shared with you happened so that I would be ready for him and the love that I would need to know how to receive from him. I have never known how to receive love. I never believed I deserved it. I am still learning and probably always will be. But he would not only move mountains, he’d reach through a wall to take care of my pain.

Onward.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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