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This Actually Happened

“Doing this interview frightens me, but I believe that if something makes you feel that way, you should do it.” – Hilton Als

Oh, believe me, I was scared as shit.

In the wake of the release of my interview on the This Is Actually Happening podcast, I rode waves of pride, panic, shame, and reflection. An international audience now had access to my deepest (no longer) secrets and traumas, and I’d attached my name to the whole lot of them.

Although I’d written about most of them at one point or another, many times on this blog, this was a whole new level of visibility. At one point I made the mistake of reading the iTunes user reviews and although one reviewer said it was the most impactful episode she’d every heard (five stars), another said that this type of excruciating content should be left in a therapy session (um, yeah, no stars). At several times over the past week, I’ve thought the same.

Ultimately, though, I return to my belief that there’s value in sharing dark times with others, in order to make others who have endured their own dark times feel less alone. And I was overwhelmed with the hundreds of messages of support I received through various platforms from all over the world.

Though I appreciated the ones who thanked me for my bravery (at times over the last week, I’ve replaced “bravery” with “foolishness”), I was most grateful for the ones who found their experiences reflected in mine. Dark times have a way of isolating us from others. It was good to hear that a few people found some level of connection.

The episode is a weird, dark, at times bleak series of events, edited into a single narrative. From childhood abuse and neglect to addiction to HIV to one parent’s terminal illness and the other parent’s betrayal via batshit stories posted to the internet, I’m aware that it’s not an easy narrative to endure for most listeners.

I didn’t really want to listen to it myself. I put it off until late one night, turning out the lights, crawling into bed with the chihuahua, and pressing “play.” But strangely, once I got past the discomfort of hearing my weird voice, I ended up not completely embarrassed by the story.

In fact, I’m hesitant to admit this, but I listened to it over a dozen times in the last week. Something about hearing the whole story in one hour was helping me in some way that I can’t yet articulate. Like I could finally find a through line through a jumbled chaos of painful events.

It’s also not the whole story. I mean, how could it be? A three-hour interview edited down into one hour can’t also contain all of the joy and moments of genuine human connection that made that narrative endurable for me. So many people, with their humor and compassion, helped make my life worth living. They help me still.

7 Replies to “This Actually Happened”

  1. Hi there. I’ve just listened to your episode and I just felt compelled to reach out and say thank you for so bravely and articulately telling your story….as someone who likewise struggles to describe what makes their father tick as anything but “something other”, you have made me feel so…if not quite seen, truly validated and so so SO much less alone in this world. These aliens may be the odd ones out, but they do have such a way of making us feel like we’re alone out there in the universe, don’t they? It’s only once you pop the bubble and reach out that you realise, that much like a baby before it is born, the idea that you and you alone have been given this environment to grow is 1)not particularly unique to you (although gladly not as unique as being born and finding out most other people have hair and fingernails ) 2) utterly relatable and recognisable to those of us who also have aliens for fathers – god I love that description. You have done me such a kindness in telling your story, that, while of course uniquely yours, chimes so strongly with my own experience of being my fathers daughter. I am so glad you are doing well and wish you all the best for the future. You have really done yourself a great credit and I am both grateful and proud of you ☺️ Thank you so much xx

  2. (To clarify, because if you are anything like myself this will be what is of interest to you – it’s in particular your description of the utter confounding shamelessness of your father that I find in particularly, invigoratingly , validatingly relatable. I’ve wondered so many times over the years could one man actually be so unlike anyone else I’ve ever met in terms of how he relates to the rest of the world? For a while I had stated to wonder had I actually projected his strangeness onto him [“maybe he’s actually just a normal nice man, maybe I’m just reading too far into it and seeing something that isn’t there to fit the narrative of something I think I remember” – is this relatable?] – or, at least I did, until i sat in a hotel room in India watching Donald trump be interviewed for the first time in 2016 and thought to myself: Jesus, I think I’ve already seen this show from the front row seats. Sorry to bombard you with a double message, I just feel like knowing as I do what personally is helpful and validating to me as an incest survivor, it’s not necessarily the occasions when someone describes feeling like i feel that make me feel less alone, but those instances when someone describes a shared observation about the nature of person of their abuser that feels like it goes some way to tackling that nagging, all important, yet utterly futile and unanswerable question: who is my father? and why?
    All the best to you darling

    1. Thank you so much for your message, taking the time to listen to the episode, and even more for taking the time to leave me your insights into your own experience, which mirrored so much of mine. My father is indeed a hard nut to crack, and I think the best we can do sometimes is figure out how to shield ourselves from the fallout of someone like that. But I appreciate your effort to reach out, and I wish you much peace as well.

  3. So deeply personal, brave, and amazing. It’s a lot to process, not because it was too much to hear, but because of how much I can relate to different pieces of your life and what you went through. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Hi Michael

    I just listened to the podcast and was left with a need to reach out to you to say thank you. Thank you for being so brave to share your story. You have been through so much and still manage to have so much strength to keep going.
    Now you have touched thousands of people with your story, and of all of them rooting for you, there is now at least one here in Denmark .
    Much love and big hugs!

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