“What are the perks of being a werewolf, exactly?”

The Perks of Being a Werewolf

Ever since I changed my Instagram handle to @perksofbeingawerewolf and started my new blog here titled “The Perks of Being a Werewolf,” I have received a lot of questions.

“So what are the perks of being a werewolf, exactly?”

“Are you a fantasy writer?”

“Do you think you’re a werewolf?”

Well, it’s not all that simple and yet at the same time, it really is.

I picked this name for this blog because of what I’ve experienced in the last 28 years.  Cycles of depression and mania, horrible times and times of great celebration, great tragedies and great victories, draining vampiric soul-sucking sociopathic relationships and true friendships built out of the ashes of a fire that should have killed me.  In the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, the main character says the worst thing about divorce is that it should kill you, but it doesn’t.  You feel like it should, though.  I can relate to that.

I want to chronicle here the things I’ve been through that should have killed me, but didn’t.  I want to chronicle the dark and twisty roads I went down after the night my father died, and the even darker roads I went down after that terrible night in November of 2007 when I was raped.  I want to chronicle my diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.  I want to chronicle my time spent in treatment for alcohol addiction.  I want to chronicle my fumbling, stumbling, blind, deaf, and sometimes heartbreaking and hilarious attempts to find and reclaim myself after these great and terrible losses.  I want to share my testimony that life is good, even when it’s bad.  I want my story to be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison, if only one person.

Some people think I’m insane for sharing such intimate details of my life, but I honestly feel that the only way I’m going to heal entirely is by sharing this harrowing journey.  The physical parts of it, the emotionally gut-wrenching and belly-laughing parts of it, and the spiritual maze that I’ve traveled through and continue to seek out the oracle at the center of, as though She might have the Great Answer to Why the Terrible Thing had to happen in the first place.

So, people ask why it’s “The Perks of Being a Werewolf.”  I liken my experiences with Bipolar I and with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to lycanthropy.  It’s like I was bitten at birth, or maybe on that night when a part of myself was taken from me that I can never restore, and now I have the disease.  I have the Werewolf Syndrome.  For me sometimes the moon brings out the darkness.  I hate to sleep at night because I don’t feel safe at night.  Sometimes an offhanded sexual comment from a coworker brings the beast out.  Sometimes just the way the clouds are hanging in the sky and the way someone looks at me invites the monster to come out to play.  But there are perks of being a werewolf, too.

I once had a therapist tell me that those of us who experience depression in particular can experience beauty in life that people who don’t feel depression can’t really ever fully appreciate.  I thought she was full of shit and slightly insane at the time, but now I kind of agree.  I wouldn’t change my life.  I wouldn’t take back any decision I made.

I am who I am today because of every single moment, every single choice, every single event of fate or chance, every single chemical in my brain that doesn’t work the right way makes me the person that I am.  Even as discontent as I can be sometimes these days, I’m still happier as the werewolf than I ever have been before.

I want to share this journey with you.  I want to share my journey with survivors of rape and sexual assault and abuse.  I want to share my journey with those touched by mental illness of any kind.  I want people to know that you are never as alone as you feel you are.  Right now, in this wide horrible, wonderful, terrifying world, there is someone who is going through what you have…right now.  And they don’t know what the next right thing to do is.  I kind of have this idea that maybe if we all talked more honestly about these things: our tragedies, our anxieties, our ticks, our fuck-ups, our hilarious mistakes, our heartbreaking ones, that maybe, just maybe, there would be less stigma.  Maybe the word “crazy” would disappear entirely.  Maybe it would be replaced with something like “wounded” and “in need of help.”

My dear friend, Emily Eryn Gray, who runs a blog of her own that I’ll feature on mine, gave me a notebook that says in gold lettering BAD DECISIONS MAKE GOOD STORIES.  She also gave me a stack of Wonder Woman cards that she’d been holding onto for years.  It was like one of those meant to be moments.  She handed them to me and the first one was Wonder Woman holding open the mouth of a great monster, not entirely unlike the lady holding open the mouth of the lion on the Strength tarot card.  I almost wept.  She told me to use this journal to tell these stories.  To start at the beginning and to tell this story of how I crawled, scraped, climbed, ran, and fought every step of my way back to myself.

In a way, this blog is a love letter to myself.  It’s a love letter to a person I lost long ago due to misunderstandings and horrible things that weren’t my choice, and some horrible things that were entirely my choice.  This is my love letter to myself and my plea for me to come back to me.  And more importantly, for me to take the ashes of the girl that was burned and be reborn a woman who inspires someone else to keep living when the idea of not living seems pretty nice.

Love to all of you.

I hope you follow me on this journey and I wish you the best on yours.

These Legs

Who is tougher than me? No one. 

That’s what Cheryl Strayed says in Wild. And yesterday, I proved that no one is tougher than me. 

At 11:30 I called Atomic Lotus to see about getting a tattoo. I realized that they didn’t open until noon. Andy, the married guy who used to send me disgusting dick pics that I was too timid to berate him over, was there. At first I felt a sense of panic as I walked in and saw him. Then I thought, “No. You don’t get to make me feel like that today. Or tomorrow. Or ever again. Fuck you.” Not an angry fuck you, but a simplistic acknowledgment of his lack of placement in any part of my life. 

I walked up to the counter and showed the guy the Bambi card with grandpa’s handwriting. I said I wanted it somewhere on my thigh, not even realizing that would mean taking my pants off in front of what would most likely be a male. 

I took a seat between two people. Strangers. Something I normally wouldn’t do for anxiety. But I did. And I read Wild. Then a guy named Charles called my name. He ushered me up into the room where we’d do the tattoo. A calmness washed over me. I immediately realized I’d need to take my pants off. I slid them down around my hiking boots (freshly bought and never hiked in, but symbolic on this day) and he shaved a cold little spot on my thigh. 

I lie down on the table with my rear to him, touching his stomach. But there was no feeling of fear. I was bigger than that. These words were bigger than that. 

“You are on the threshold of your future” read the card and soon the ink inside my skin. Who is tougher than me? No one, I told myself. 

I picked my leg not because I have sexy legs. They are short and stocky from years of conditioning in gymnastics and have touches of cellulite all about them. They are pale white and don’t tan. They rub together and there’s no gap. But they are strong. It was these legs that walked into my destroyed home after a tornado and carried out my belongings; it was these legs that walked me into a funeral home to see my grandmother laid out, cold as clay; it was these legs that walked the halls of Norman’s ICU for days as my father died; and these legs walked in heels through the snow to bury him; these legs carried me out of the house I was raped in; these legs failed me on nights I drank too much to forget; these legs carried me into my first AA meeting; these legs have run many miles; these legs have been baptized in the waters of Port Aransas on the day of the May 20th tornado; these legs have walked down the aisle in front of my best friend before she got married and they danced with abandon at her wedding; these legs have gone so many miles; and it’s these legs will walk me across the stage this spring to get a diploma; these legs will dance at my wedding; these legs will bounce a baby on them — these strong, thick, cellulite-bumped legs; these legs will carry me through the wilderness; they will take me on more journeys, dark and light; and they have yet to give out on me, so I’ll be damned if I give out on them. 

Those legs carried me out of that tattoo shop, head held high, my grandfather’s own words burned permanently into my flesh until the day this body burns or decomposes. 

I hiked that day for the first time, in those unused hiking boots brand new out of the box. I got them wet, muddy, dirty, and let them consume the soles of my feet on the trail just as I let the trail itself consume my own soul. As Cheryl Strayed said, “Everything hurt. Except my heart.”

That night I dreamt that three men harassed me. A recurring dream I’ve had for years which usually ends with me silently screaming for help that never comes. But this was different. In the dream, I simply told each man I didn’t appreciate the way he was acting. People agreed. People took my side. I was no longer victim. 

I no longer want to be the victim. I want to be the heroine of my own story. I want to be wild again. 

I will never let these awful things that the world has dealt me break my spirit. 

I will never let them tame me.