My therapist says that I'm one of her most haunted patients. And how could I not be? "He's literally everywhere!" she says. "On Television, buses, billboards!"
"I KNOW!!" I bellow at her in her chair. "He just won't…. END!" I cry loudly. She's tiny and quiet, and I am not. I see her for a myriad of things, including improving my relationship with food and my three autoimmune diseases.
I also see her to manage my Complex PTSD.
Complex PTSD is defined as "a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving harm or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic."
Diagnosed in 2014, the procedure took forever. Electrodes were attached to my head and a monitor, scanning my brain. This was neurofeedback, and I was in rehab in Arizona.
Scan results like mine were usually seen from people who had been in combat or who had severe sexual trauma, and I had neither in my history. The doctor described my brain as being turned off and that I was functioning on autopilot.
I was prescribed a device called THE DAVID by MIND ALIVE, a small wearable unit with patterned light sequences and tones. The DAVID has kept my CPTSD Combat brain at bay ever since. But In the remaining two weeks of rehab, my team supported me while I examined what could have happened to cause the results. I had to write a timeline documenting BIG Traumas (T's) and Little t's. And he spilled out onto the paper.
This is where my #metoo story begins.
I have to face the fact that he is loved.
The erosion of Weinstein and the #MeToo Movement has crumbled so many facets of the entertainment industry - except Broadway.
Project AM I RIGHT's Lauren Villegas joined many voices in protest of Amar Ramasar's casting as Bernardo in the upcoming WSS, but her comment on FB stood out to me.
"The whole #MeToo movement has basically skipped over the theater industry."
My nervous system reacts. I think of him. Because I can't not. I was 17 and inexperienced. Guys my age didn't see me. I was rarely celebrated. Many Bay Area Theaters never seemed to have costumes in size 14-16, where I lingered. I finally found solace with a musical theater company who I spent several seasons with, who always found ways to welcome people outside the box.
I walked into my 6th season as a 17-year-old girl and exited as The Other Woman. I was his fetish, and I didn't even know that word existed. He introduced me to erotic writing. I had never been spoken to in such a sensual way before. He melted away my deprivation. His MO was to make overlooked and overweight girls feel seen but in the most self-serving of ways possible, and I was perfect for his plan.
I was so awakened and in love. I was all for being discreet because I would be 18 in 4 months and then we could be together!
He seduced me slowly. First, it began with the emails and the letters with the adult vocabulary where he became my teacher. He owned me. He was my master. His words jabbed at my innocence, and I felt worshiped and desired. He unlocked sexual discoveries and gained my trust and devotion instantly. The whole time I was feeling so sexy. I had a secret. This talented, gorgeous, dominant man found THIS FAT GIRL desirable. I felt so true. He detonated everything I knew, and I was liberated, and I loved him for it.
Then, the fiancée showed up to tech. I didn’t know she existed. I just stood there in plain sight; he watched my discovery take place in the moment, he witnessed me try to be my best for him- smile and act neutral and accordingly. She walked up and hugged me. And a whole cast and crew of people went on about their day never knowing that he had groomed me and never had any intentions to be with me.
His apologies came pouring in the next day, and my confusion, despair, and shame couldn't compare to the insane love I was still feeling.
The show ended, and he was taking a trip to New York to audition for a Broadway show. 9/11 happened. After weeks of silence, I got an email that said "Your birthday is coming. And if I have anything to say about it, you will be too."
Yes sir. I snapped back into this Uneven Power Dynamic… this syndrome where I relied on him to be my oxygen.
He continued pursuing me even though we both knew how it would end. My despair was stomped out by my young mind hoping he would choose me. He showed up at my home several times. We would just drive sometimes. We wouldn't touch, we just needed to be near each other. A month before his wedding, he brought me a wedding invitation. I continued to let him shatter my life. How could someone put this much effort into someone and leave them behind? I could not comprehend the very masterful and sexually charged dominating practices that I had fallen prey to.
He and his best man showed up in my parent's driveway, the day before the wedding. I was given hope at the last of moments that the wedding might be off. I held my breath. He married his wife the next day. I was foolish. My feelings, my unsupported mess, my thoughts, my addiction, drying out from him, then I would go see a show, and people would mistake me for his wife.
After a year, he wrote to me again. He told me that in one year, there had almost been a divorce and the shame I felt for becoming the other woman at 17 was so monstrous that I couldn't even process it.
My entire life was completely split in two. Parents, friends, school, college, and singing were one life, and the other life was him, my shame, my despair, my unrequited love. He was my secret. Until Broadway discovered him, launching him into the spotlight.
Somewhere in between my demise in college and giving up musical theater, I heard he had solicited our stage manager, a curvy big girl- someone who fit his agenda and offered her a discreet relationship. I have to wonder if there are others?
It's hard enough being a fat girl. It's hard enough being hidden, not desired, not preferred, not hired, mocked, stereotyped- but when you think you're being loved and you're actually being programmed and devalued? That's a whole other level of cruelty that I may never completely unpack.
I took myself out of musical theater because it was no longer safe. I hung my dreams of Madame Thenardier up and focused on nightclub work. I missed loving musicals.
These are the gray experiences. The little t's of trauma that dot our lives secretly that often weigh more than a BIG T. A Big Trauma is… a bomb. A huge accident or catastrophe….a rape….force of some kind. Torture. But gray experiences-the Little T's….. the degradation…the using, the cultivating and inserting oneself into a position of sexual domination without consent…..breaking a girl down while she's turning into a woman….. putting a halt on development and planting seeds of sloppy seconds, manipulation and unwanted discretion… served up with reminders of it daily in the media and our entertainment communities is also another side of the undertow of the #Metoo Movement that breezes over our Broadway stages.
With the help of a casting director who I love more than anyone, I dipped my toe back into musical theater in 2015. It hurt so much to turn it all back on again. I got in acting class at Stella Adler and auditioned and booked a show. On the first day of rehearsal, our director wanted to encourage bonding, so we all told a secret…and he spilled out. In Stella Adler, it's called the "Vomit" Moment. It's when the character can no longer hold it together, and the truth comes out. He was coming out every time I faced my musical theater pathway. BUT WHY?
Because I was conditioned. I was assuming a type of position whenever I was in a cast setting that was purposefully and energetically….putting me on the outside looking in. Isolating myself. Fearing others. Expecting to be played everywhere I turned. I was programmed.
I remember telling a renowned acting career coach, "I want to be in musical theater so much, but it has to hurt less!" and he said "It shouldn't hurt….. at all!"
And that was perspective. It was hurting to be there, but I knew I needed to still pursue it? I couldn't let him terminate my love, but I was killing myself by staying.
I'd leave musical theater feeling like a failure, but then a concert or reading would warp me back in, and I would go through these patterns of terror before rehearsals, be defensive, figure out slowly that no one was a liar or out to get me, and then the show would be over, and I would judge myself harshly for being so stupid or difficult. I've devoted a lot of time to fixing this, and it's much better.
Special teachers, positive experiences, and me learning how to be nicer to myself have allowed me to pursue being in shows again. There's no one way to navigate these Big little t's. You will make mistakes and piss some people off while trying to get back to then. Watch other actors. Learn how to be professional. Train. Get to know yourself. Put the person first, actor second. Be a business person. Always offer something you CAN do if there's something you can't. SHARE STORIES. OFFER KINDNESS.
And last but not least, reclaim your love.