As anyone who knows me and/or follows my writing is aware, I had a nervous breakdown when I was sixteen, tried to kill myself, and landed in a psychiatric hospital as a result. Between the terrible ex-boyfriends, questionable medications, and sudden, unexpected uprooting of my life to move to a small town in the middle of nowhere, I haven’t exactly been the same ever since. Being raped and assaulted while living here hasn’t exactly helped the situation, nor has the constant bullying, harassment, and damage to my reputation that have been caused by small town douchebags with nothing better to do than accuse me of making all of this up. Because as we all know, Survivors Are Just Making It Up For Attention (And Other Lies The Patriarchy Tells), coming soon to an MRA Facebook page near you.
About six months after I finally graduated from college, I fell into another deep depression. Only this time, something was different. When I looked in the mirror, I realized that I had been unhappy for most of my life and I was ready for something to change. I knew that nothing outside of me could fix it, so I turned inward into myself. I wanted to change and I was willing to do anything I had to do. I knew it would take time and effort and I couldn’t just give up if I didn’t see immediate results. I had to dedicate every ounce of energy I had to learning how to be happy.
Because of my past experiences with Big Pharma and Big Psychology, I already knew talk therapy and medication weren’t going to do the trick. After all, if they were going to work, they would’ve worked when I forced into it in third grade because I’d rather read than play with other kids on the playground. I had to find another solution, so I did what any highly-motivated person in my situation would do: I went to the library and read every self-help book I could find.
I learned positive coping skills to deal with intrusive thoughts. I started a therapy journal. I did a Vision Quest and went to an Inipi Ceremony. I got really into all sorts of spiritual stuff. I learned how to meditate and do yoga. I learned how to identify and avoid toxic people. I learned to put up healthy boundaries between me and said toxic individuals. I lived out of my car and drove across the entire United States in search of answers. I tried all of the “clean-eating” diets. I learned how to forgive the people who hurt me. And I did all of this while smoking a lot of medicinal marijuana. It took me about three years to get myself back in a healthy state of mind again. That’s when I began asking the really big question: Who the hell am I?
Luckily, right at that moment, Andrew showed up in my life to help me figure it out.
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I was receiving “visits” from a mysterious character who would not show me his face or tell me his name for several years What I mean by “visits” is that this character would come out when I was writing, appear during meditation, and visit me in dreams. I guess I must have thought he was a stranger I’d never met, because I was SHOCKED when he suddenly showed up one day and said, “Surprise! It’s me! Andrew! The Owner of your favourite bar! I’ve been watching you this entire time! Lol! Bamboozled again!”
Needless to say, I’ve been fighting the idea that these two characters are the same for the entirety of the last year. Unfortunately, the more I wrote about Andrew, the more obvious it became that they were, in fact, the same character, and that I had been totally and completely bamboozled by a married man.
So now that we understand what I’ve been going through in the last few years and who Andrew is to me, we can understand why he and I are always “playing games” in my stories that involve us adopting different identities. This brings me back to the subject of my own identity, which is quite complicated, as you can tell from the title.
When I first started this website, I felt my identity was split right down the middle. There was Betsey, the good one, and Liz, the bad one. Betsey has dark hair and writes while Liz has blonde hair and is an actress/stripper/escort. Though I have never been a stripper or an escort in real life, I chose those two professions because I wanted to relay the fact that Liz was involved with lots of terrible men in the past who had abused her to the point of losing her mind. It was also a way for me to take all of my negative feelings and past experiences and put them all onto someone who wasn’t technically “me.” That way I could maintain my actual identity while saying “That stuff didn’t happen to me, so I can move past it and become a whole being again.”
As it turns out, splitting one’s identity this way isn’t actually a healthy coping mechanism. In fact, more often than not, it led me to strange situations where I would get drunk and turn into Liz, or get into trouble in some other way. The real Andrew has seen this happen on multiple occasions. If you follow me on Twitter, you can usually tell when I’ve been drinking because I will start speaking like “her.” It’s a weird thing. It really is. Just remember, it isn’t really “me” when I’m talking that way.
Right off the bat, Andrew (character) wanted to know more about Liz. He wanted to know who she was, where she came from, and why I created her in the first place. He encouraged me to be her for him. He said it was better for me to just let it all out instead of keeping it locked up inside. He is right, because prior to “playing” her, I was constantly making self-portraits like this:
… And I feel so much better about everything ridiculous that has ever happened in my life! Part of this also has to do with the fact that I’ve written three books in the past year, therefore releasing all of the negativity I was keeping locked inside of me. It turns out that keeping all of my rage inside was literally poisoning me and that was the real cause of all of my depression and anxiety.
Are you still following me? Yes? You confused as to why this bitch is so cray? Well stick with me, because my story gets better. If you thought I was crazy before, just wait. This is where the past lives come in.
Now, before I tell you this story, you need to understand two things. One, I’ve become a very spiritual person in the last few years I’ve been on this personal journey. I take it very seriously. Two, I also understand that I am a privileged white lady and that all of this could be Marie Laveau selling me a bunch of voodoo bullshit she made up on a whim to make me feel better. So like I said, this could all be bullshit. I know this and I’m buying into it anyway, because it works for me.
So, onto the past lives…
Past life regression therapy is a thing I’ve done a lot of over the course of my search for an identity. I have at least two past lives I know of. It turns out, both of them were actresses and prostitutes. Hmm, sound like someone we were just talking about above? Yes.
The first is the Empress Theodora, a famous actress/prostitute, who co-ruled the Byzantine Empire with Emperor Justinian I. He went to see her show when she was basically homeless on the street, fell in love with her, and changed the law so he could marry her. Yes, Andrew is the Emperor. Yes, this is who I have in mind when we’re “playing” this game. How do I know Andrew is the Emperor? Because the primary historical source has him written all over it. For example:
Me: It says here someone actually saw your face melting off?
Andrew: Oh yeah, dude. We were totally tripping balls that night!
Me: I rest my case. *bangs gavel*
Andrew: Wait, what?
If you know Andrew in real life, you’re already laughing at this conversation.
How did I find this one? It literally just came to me in meditation one day. Also, I’ve always known I lived a past life in Ancient Rome. That’s why I’ve been obsessed with Classical Studies my entire life and have a degree in it. It really deserves its own book, so for the sake of time and space we are sticking to the short summary.
The second past life I discovered when I visited New Orleans this year. I was on a Ladies of the Night tour in the French Quarter and we stopped at a famous historic bar to re-fill our to-go cups. The tour guide had two books on her. One was a re-print of the infamous Blue Book, or guide to the brothels of Storyville. The second was a bigger book that went into the actual history of prostitution in New Orleans. I asked the Blue Book who I was, and opened to a page listing Octoroon Brothels, their Madams, and the girls working there. Okay, so I had a list of names. Unhelpful. So I asked the big book and opened to a random page. Sure enough, there was one name that appeared on both pages: Lulu White, one of the most famous Madams in Storyville history.
When I read about Lulu White, I knew her story was mine. She was part West Indian, split her time between Hollywood and New Orleans, tried to start her own movie studio, and suddenly disappeared one day after making a withdrawal from her bank account. And wouldn’t you know it? The building where her brothel was located was destroyed by HURRICANE BETSY.
OH MY GAWD, YA’LL, IT’S ME!!!!
Wham, bam, thank you ma’am! I am eating all of this shit right up, Marie! Shut up and take my rich white lady money! Just take it! Take it all! *throws ALL the money at her feet*
Still with me? Ha ha, I bet you are. Never forget I double majored in English Lit and History (specifically Classical Studies) and I am a total and complete NERD. That’s why I am totally eating all of this shit up right now and it’s working for me.
Next question: What the hell do Theodora and Lulu White have to do with my personal identity crisis?
Well, Liz is supposedly a prostitute and actress, and both these ladies are in those businesses. So again, this is Marie Laveau looking into her crystal ball and saying, “The reason you feel like this person is because you were literally an actress/prostitute in two of your past lives. You’re still healing from the trauma and that’s why it keeps coming out like this. However, you’re not destined to be a stripper, escort, or actress in this life. You live in the 21st century and you can make different choices because of the Feminist Movement. What you really want to be is a writer. So go be a writer!”
Cut to shot of Marie Laveau counting her stacks of cash while thinking, “These dumbass white girls will fall for anything.” And we will, dammit! We will!
Get it? Do you see where I’m going with this story? No? Let me sum it up for you.
By going through this entire process, I’ve eliminated the character of Liz from the equation, fixed the split in my personality, and healed the deep-seated pain raging inside of my soul. Now I can say, “Okay, this is everything I’m NOT. I am not Liz. I am not Theodora. I am not Lulu White. I am not an actress, escort, or stripper. I am not a sick, crazy person who can never get better. I am Betsey Horton, Writer Extraordinaire. I am a regular person who dreams of becoming a writer, traveling the world, and living in Paris. I can be happy. I can live a normal life. I don’t have have to be so depressed, moody, and anxiety-ridden anymore! All I have to do is write books!”
It’s like how Nick Carraway is staying in a mental hospital at the beginning of Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby (which is the best, IMO), and at the end he’s allowed to leave because he feels all better now that he’s written his story. Savvy?
As for Andrew, well, that’s a different question, isn’t it? It’s definitely not up to me to decide who he is or what he does. He is his own person. As far as I can tell, he is a person who likes to play different parts and be different things to different people. All I can really say about my “relationship” with him is that it has been beautiful, magical, productive, and fulfilling in spite of the fact that it’s never been consummated in real life. Literally all we’ve done is stare at each other from across the room. But it doesn’t really matter to me, because this is a man who saw a woman in an extremely vulnerable position and cared enough to help her out. If it weren’t for him, I would still feel like an angry, crazy, drunk person with multiple identities, an extreme case of writer’s block, and a very strong hatred for all men. Well, not all men, right? Right. Well done, Andrew. Well done. I could go through the rest of my life without ever seeing him again and remember him with love, gratitude, and kindness. Once again, he gets to be The Greatest. I hope he’s very proud.
Did you follow all of that? Yes? No? Not really sure wtf to even think right now? I know, it sounds totally crazy, right? Yeah. And to think, ya’ll thought I was crazy BEFORE I brought all this ridiculous voodoo shit into it.
Hey, at least it makes a good story, amiright?
And here we are now. I know who I am and what I want. Thanks for the placebo, Marie. You done saved me from my own damn self!
Onward and forward.