In March of 1991, I became one of the youngest people in the country to be charged with a felony. Just a freshman in high school, armed policemen handcuffed me and toted my limp body out of the front door of my house like a piece of luggage. I was fourteen years old and accused of plotting to kill my family. With the Satanic Panic era in full swing, I was bound for a jail cell, and the fact that I was innocent was irrelevant.
Mass hysteria had swept the nation, and little did I know, my accuser took full advantage of it. My arrest and the events that followed were no coincidence. It would later become clear that I was the target of a personal vendetta.
The word of a liar, a few band tees, black nail polish, and a hidden collection of cassettes was enough to prove my guilt. In those days, tarot cards and pentagrams were as good as forensic evidence. Fantastical stories of black masses, child sacrifice, and blood-drinking adolescents resulted in countless innocent people going to jail, myself included.
Yet, even in such irrational times, the notion of sending a child to prison was a hard one to buy off on, and my fraudulent charge was lessened to domestic violence. Even so, the damage had already been done. Like so many others, I fell victim to a modern-day witch hunt. American housewives were a wide-eyed and attentive audience to talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey and Sally Jessy Raphael. By providing a platform to supposed victims of 'ritual abuse,' the headline chasing sensationalists only added to the hysteria. Pouring lighter fluid on an inferno, they set the lives of everyday people ablaze. Years later, the supposed witness stories fell apart, and to most modern ears, now sound utterly ridiculous.
Insurance funded imprisonment under the guise of rehabilitating satanic and suicidal teens was big business in the wake of the panic. Private sanitariums with shady psychiatrists dolled out Lithium and Thorazine like candy. These 'residential treatment centers' were only cleverly disguised filing cabinets for unwanted children. Many of those kids, who weren't suicidal before their arrival, ultimately did take their own lives.
I'd considered it myself a time or two just to escape the suffocating weight of a family and system that had unjustly crucified and disregarded me. But something inside wouldn't let me fall into the abyss. I kept hope alive with the idea that the situation couldn't last forever. If nothing else, I didn't want to give them the satisfaction. Spite can sometimes be a very motivating factor.
Most of these facilities, like Highland Hospital in North Carolina, were forcibly closed by the mid-nineties. However, their closings opened an entirely new set of problems for many of its residents. Branded as troubled and with no family members willing to take us in, many of us had nowhere to go. The realities of teen homelessness are harsh, and I know first hand.
I started working as an adult entertainer, and by seventeen, I'd saved enough to move into my own apartment. With plans to go back to school and a new job at a gym, life was finally on an upward trajectory. I was proud of myself for surviving, and I felt confident I was on track to recover. And that's precisely when the real nightmare began.
Shortly after moving into my own place, I began to suspect I was being watched. At times, I was sure someone was following me. Soon, I questioned if someone wasn't coming into my apartment when I wasn't home. Household items were moved from one room to another or would sometimes just disappear altogether. Takeout containers would seemingly leap from the fridge to the trash bin on their own while I was at work. It wasn't only inconvenient and expensive; it was downright maddening. After a few months of the 'ghostly happenings,' I started to wonder if mind games weren't entirely the point. It felt like someone was trying to drive me crazy.
The police, my family, and shockingly even my friends laughed it off as a practical joke. Some folks suggested I call The Ghostbusters, and others just thought I needed a psychiatrist. My so-called 'checkered' past and time in a sanatarium didn't help. No one believed the strange events and eerie feelings I was experiencing were real. And once the mystery person was satisfied that no one believed my story, the strange happenings suddenly took a dramatic and very dark turn. What was once unnerving and bothersome became downright terrifying. Life was about to get very complicated.
No matter how many times I changed my number, I was plagued by repetitive hang-up calls. Bizarre 'personal messages' were left for me by people I'd never heard of. Creepy gifts and nasty notes were regularly left at my apartment door or waiting for me inside my car. My mailbox was filled with bills for things I didn't order and unwanted subscriptions to weird adult magazines. Bogus complaints and phony accusations flooded into my workplace until I was fired.
If I changed jobs or moved, it would only take a few weeks before the cycle would repeat. Even still, no one, including the police, took me seriously. Eventually, I returned to adult entertainment as it seemed the only job the mystery person would 'allow' me to have. Although a somewhat unpopular opinion, I found that I could hold on to some semblance of normality, anonymity, and security through adult entertainment.
In many ways, sex work saved my life, and I have fond memories of many of the people I met there. In some ways, I'll always miss it. Sex workers are the secret keepers and privy to a raw honesty that few know. It's a side of humanity few in 'polite society' ever get to experience. It's also heavily stigmatized, and misinformation runs rampant.
In early 2001, strange crayon drawings of people being murdered with butcher knives started appearing in the mail. It was clear I was in danger, regardless if anyone believed me or not. The phrase 'stalking' didn't become en vogue until many years later. There really was no word for it in ordinary language, so I really had no way to articulate what was happening. It didn't seem as if it would've mattered much anyway. Given my past, my profession, and my constant moving, I appeared to outsiders as a 'wild, party girl' with a flair for the dramatic and not the stalking victim I was.
I lived in a constant state of anxiety. No matter where I went, my shadow followed me. It felt like I was trying to catch a ninja. The seclusion was stifling, and the loneliness suffocating. Afraid to go anywhere and afraid to be at home, I was sinking into a deep, dark depression. Like a mouse to a cat, I was prey and the target of someone's displaced rage. At the time, it felt like the sinister, enigmatic person was winning. I finally made the decision to change my name and disappear as much as possible. My work became my life and I stayed on the move.
After almost five years of living like a ghost, the pressure became overwhelming. No matter how many times or far away I moved, I was afforded only a few months of reprieve before the horrific sequence would begin again. Enveloped in a shroud of despair, and with my stalker's brazenness becoming more disturbing, taking my own life seemed like the only solution.
Standing over the kitchen sink with enough pills to end my suffering, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It was then I realized my suicide was precisely what the stalker was hoping for. The pills went down the drain, and I decided then and there to become an even more challenging target.
For nearly ten years, I stayed on the move and under the radar. I attempted to become as nameless and faceless as the person hunting me. But even after multiple name changes and hundreds of addresses, I remained the focus of someone's rage, and nothing appeared to quelch the venom. At times, I wished the mystery person would just get it over with and kill me.
By 2010, I became exhausted with the whole situation. I went out of my way to bring attention to myself, hoping to either provoke a reaction from the shadow stalker or at the very least get someone to believe me. But there was no way I could've prepared for the hurricane of events that followed.
Near the beginning of 2011, an excruciatingly painful illness became the focus of my life. Within six years, I was nearly bedridden. My hair was falling out, I was going blind, and my 5'4 frame weighed a meager 95 lbs. I experienced seizures, debilitating physical symptoms, and strange hallucinations. My thinking was unclear and my body struggling. Baffled and concerned by the myriad of odd symptoms, my doctors made it clear I would die if something didn't change. In August of 2019, something finally did.
A nurse requested a heavy metals blood panel on a hunch, and it was her hunch that saved my life. The lab test revealed elevated mercury, arsenic, and lead levels, among other toxins that shouldn't have been there. It was my physician's opinion that someone had been poisoning me very slowly and quite intentionally, over a long period. And as the truth unfolded, it was far more diabolical and vicious than I could ever have fathomed.
The sadistic shadow stalker, the poisoner, and the person responsible for my bogus arrest were one and the same. A narcissistic psychopath cloaked in khaki and penny loafers, my stalker is a master manipulator with a machiavellian soul. She's also a member of my family, which is precisely how she got away with discrediting and stalking me for so long.
As I began to learn about the different types of stalking behavior, I found that mine is categorized as a 'resentful stalker.' This form of stalking arises when the stalker believes they have suffered an injustice. In turn, they fixate on the person they believe to be the cause of their unhappiness. The end goal is to seek revenge and eradicate the person 'causing' the stalker's perceived problems. In the aggressor's mind, their life will magically be better if their target is exterminated.
Research shows that rarely does this type of stalker just decide to give up and go away. Although many law enforcement agencies are convinced of her guilt, loopholes in the law allow her to remain free. As such, I live each day aware that someday she may decide to follow through on her threats and kill me. Now that law enforcement is involved, the harassment has slowed to a crawl. But I often feel the familiar sensation I'm being watched and trolled. Even if my stalker was dead, I'm sure that feeling won't ever go away. That kind of long-term terror doesn't ever really leave the subconscious. It's a wound that will never stop bleeding.
Although there is residual damage to my physical body, I'm healing faster than anyone thought possible. Of all, the most challenging battle seems to be the one wrought with resentment and Complex PTSD. I missed out on being part of a family, having stability, friends, and achieving many goals. There are days I feel robbed, and I get angry. I haven't forgiven, and I'm not sure I ever will. In fact, I'm not even sure if forgiveness is part of the course. Like many other facets of this experience, that's something I'm still working to understand.
I'm also working to remove stigmas surrounding stalking victims, sex workers, mental health issues, and misdiagnosis. Shortsighted medical staff and disbelieving psychologists allow many criminals to get away with their crimes. There is a desperate need for the medical profession to address the issues of misdiagnosis and stigmatization. Judgment and dismissiveness by law enforcement is also a problem, especially when it comes to stalking crimes. Stalking and poisoning are some of the most challenging crimes to prove, and I feel those factors are large contributors.
The only thing I'm sure of is that I'm not the same person I was before. I don't need to run, and I refuse to hide anymore. These days, I'm determined to live my life on my terms, stalker-be-damned. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I can see the difference in my face after finding out who the responsible person is. The events have taken their toll, and there is an ever-present filter of sadness that fails to subside. I'll never understand how anyone could be so cruel and diabolical, nor will I ever fully grasp why I was targeted.
Loneliness and fear were my companions throughout most of this journey. The darkest parts came after I learned who my stalker was and the extent of her hatred for me. I had to find myself through the devastation and rage. Above all, I had to recognize the power in surviving my dance with the Grim Reaper and claim a life outside of my stalker's control. Embracing that kind of power means wearing your heart on your sleeve and not being afraid to speak the truth, even if your voice shakes, as they say.
Being honest about the struggle's lows and highs is imperative, and finding a healthy support system crucial. Recovery isn't linear. It's a crooked, squiggly line with no definitive end. Healing is a messy business, and it doesn't look Instagram-ready. The face of pain is ugly, and the road is often treacherous. Most days, I find myself looking around in amazement, thinking, "I made it." Whatever issue is staring me down always seems to pale in comparison to what I've already lived through. I will live my life on my own terms, and it's now my mission to help others do the same.