Shade Bio

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One Month Primal Blueprint


Hello Otherbeasts! The numbers have come in, and after only a month of eating Primal I have lost 15.2 pounds and have lost 16" TOTAL! WOW! I am now down to 174.8 and I plan on continuing the trend! I can't believe all I had to do was eat. Amazing. If you want the dirty numbers, here they are:
Neck: 14" (0")
Arms: 11" (-1")
Chest: 43" (-4")
Ribcage: 34.5" (-3.5")
Waist: 40" (-3")
Hips: 42.75" (-3.25")
Inner Thighs: 24.75" (-1.25")
Thighs: 20" (0")

Pretty darned amazing if you ask me. I also wanted to share with you a personal testimony from my mother and father. They decided to come visit J and me for Thanksgiving and so I put on a Primal Feast! Turkey, butternut squash, asparagus, primal coconut bread, primal pumpkin pie... it was DELICIOUS. My folks thought so too. The next night I made them spaghetti squash primal "pasta" and so the 3 days they were here, they had nothing to eat but primal things. My dad was intruigued but skeptical, my mom had been doing a semi-primal diet already but with a few cheats left in. Needless to say I fed them pretty healthy while they were here. After they returned back to Austin my mom shared an interesting story with me through text:
Mom: "Dad actually went Primal on us... lol! Saturday evening after we got back from Houston, against my advice, he decided to eat some cereal... not good, but he argued the point that his body was used to eating cereal and that he would be fine..."

Me: Hrm. 80/20, I guess.

Mom: "Yeh, but... after eating Primal at your home for 2-3 days, he had been feeling really good... in fact, I don't know if you noticed, but he was really energetic and talkative Saturday morning/afternoon at your home... quite uncharacteristic for him."

Me: Indeed!

Mom: "Well back to Saturday evening... about 30 minutes after he ate that cereal, we were watching tv, when he turned to me and said, "I don't think that cereal agreed with me, my stomach doesn't feel good." About 5 minutes later, he got a stomach ache... had to use the potty 2 or 3 times (sorry, tmi)."

Me: Wow... I guess that spoke for itself.

"So, now he's saying that you were right, that he needs to cut out the cereal, or at the very least cut way down. Now he wants to read the book... lol! He said, "You'll have to tell [Shade] that I went Primal, much better than going postal! LOL."
So, isn't that neat? My dad, the naysayer, has seen proof with his own eyes/stomach that eating Primal is very beneficial for oneself. I'm glad they're deciding on a healthier lifestyle choice; I love my parents and I want them to be around as long as possible. <3
So, bottomline is:

I'll leave you with that to think about. :3

Until Next Time,
<3 Shade

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey

Okay, hello Otherbeasts, today I am writing about quitting smoking cigarettes cold turkey. Okay, almost cold turkey. I'd like to share my struggle in hopes of helping others quit and as well as to complain about my own misery as I go through this process.

I've been smoking for a decade... 10 years... at least. Because I really started smoking back in high school (obviously not seriously) but got pretty serious in college at around 19 years old; laugh at me now because back then I thought it was "cool," and I couldn't really manage my stress and my dumb ass thought it was a smart option to lean on cigarettes. If I had a time travel machine, I'd go back into the past and kick my own ass just to really drive the point home. Teenagers are so stupid.

DAY 0:
I was going to originally quit on Thursday evening; our roommate had just bought a new pack and divided it up between himself, me, and my honey - it was to last us just for that night and we would be cigarette free by Friday morning. Well, Friday came but things got stressful and I really wasn't that quite ready yet and so I caved and bought a pack of cigarettes; but all was not lost, I split the pack with my significant other bought another one to split between the three of us again.

DAY 1:
Saturday was my first actual day without smoking a cigarette. By the afternoon I was having a hard time not caving into buying another pack, and so I compromised by buying myself and my honey an e-cigarette (probably almost as bad, but not as bad as an actual cancer stick). So, we proceeded to smoke on those a bit, but following the same rituals as with "normal" cigarettes like: keeping them outside so we had to take a break from whatever it was we were doing to go have one, having a break after a meal, after a shower, after coffee, etc. We tried to maintain some normalcy about it. I was okay with it, the cravings weren't to bad. I cheated a little bit because the roommate had a cigar and was weaning himself off that way, and I took a drag. Ugh. Disappointed.

DAY 2:
Today is Sunday and I am having a time and a half. The cravings are bad today... and before I even get to the rest of it, last night was awful! I had trouble sleeping; my sleep was light, interrupted, and not restful at all. Is that a normal thing? Because that SUCKS. Anyway, the cravings are bad, and I'm puffing on this e-cigarette every so often but it just pisses me off because it's not a real cigarette. I'm too far to go back and quit quitting because today marks 2 whole days total without cigarettes, so I guess I'll keep on not smoking. Besides, I did the math: 5 bucks a day is about $150.00 extra dollars a month that I could spend on other things that are far better for me.

But the irritability is here to stay for a bit, and my little pinkie fingers keep getting numb-ish, like pins and needles. I'm hungry but I don't want to eat anything. I'm thirsty and so I keep drinking water... but of course the one thing I want the most I can't have. Not that I even want it; I took another small drag off the roomie's cigar and it literally tasted like an ashtray full of dirt and feet. I don't want the smell, I don't want the taste, I don't want the feeling, I don't want any of the nasty, I just want something that comes with smoking cigarettes but I have no idea what it is. Maybe I have a fear that I don't know who I am without them. I mean, a decade is a long time, I could be a completely different person without cigarettes, maybe it'll be a bad thing.

And that was the bargaining phase... you all know what that means, so, if we go by DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) then I'm 3/5ths of the way past the craving/quitting phase? Well, nuts. I'm gonna stop typing so that I don't face plant my keyboard.

DAY 3:
Will there be one? How will it go? Stay tuned to find out. 

Until Next Time,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Hurting Loved Ones

Hello Cherished Otherbeasts. Today I'd like to write about the effect of having Dissociative Identity Disorder on loved ones. It's a bit of a touchy subject and every person is different, but I thought I'd share what I went through before realizing I had DiD.

Back in 2006 I got out of an extremely traumatizing relationship with a man who had NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), which if you've read anything about or done any research on, someone with NPD must have absolute control over most every aspect of their lives. The bottom line of NPD is this: They do not and can not love themselves (though they may claim to). Mind you, it is much different from just plain old narcissism, don't let the semantics trip you up.

Anyhow, during my three year relationship with this man (we'll call him Tay) I was subjected to every kind of abuse that exists: emotional, psychological, physical, mental, etc. Because I had to endure so many types of abuse, my core self could not cope with the trauma and instead created a "fissure" in my personality. This fissure turned out to become the coping mechanism. For a full background on the events that happened see my blog I Survived A Cult: Memoirs of a Werewolf.

But I digress, this entry is not about what caused my Dissociative nature, but rather about the aftermath and discovering more about it. After leaving Tay and moving back in with my parents I was pretty wounded - my parents of course took me back with open arms and nothing but love and compassion - but the worst part was that they couldn't understand my behavior, not because they were intolerant or cold, but because I didn't even understand it and I couldn't explain to them what was wrong; so if I didn't know, how could they?

I thank the Lord every single day for my parents and I ask Him to forgive me for the 2 to 3 years of hell I put them through due to Dissociative Identity Disorder. I digress again, it always seemed odd to me that I felt no emotions, none, zip, zilch, nada... save one. Anger. I used to cry at Hallmark commercials (pathetic, I know) but then it was like my emotions were just... gone; they had vacated the premises. Back then, I blamed it on emotional exhaustion from 3 years of bullshit from Tay, and figured the rest of the emotions would slowly creep back in. I was wrong.

It was like there was no setting in between "off" and "high." No emotions between "normal" and "angry." Now when I say normal, I don't actually mean "normal," that word implies that I walked around like everyone else. My "normal" was kind of like a flat-line, no ups, no downs, just existing, and just surviving. The angry part, now that was something scary, if I became angry it wasn't just anger... it was pure unadulterated rage, but a very cruel, quiet, and hollow rage. A very strange rage... it was as if it were a boiling pot, simmering at first, then rising to a rolling boil, and just as the water was about to crest over the top and spill on to the burners, the water would still back to stasis - no movement, like it had never been boiling at all - but it would still violently burn if touched.

My anger even scared me at times because somewhere inside I knew it wasn't normal but I just couldn't understand, again I blamed it on the 3 years of pent-up anger against Tay. But, like I said before, it wasn't a normal anger... it was a monster. Once that boiling water would almost crest it would go still and all the compassion and love I had inside of myself for others vanished. Looking back on some drawing I did during that time, it was clearly evident that I knew I was split somehow: most of the drawing contained two or more entities along with myself. I began to call my split "Shade" because she always lurked in the shadows, ready at a moment's notice to take control if I couldn't handle something.

But Shade was cruel. She had no love for others, no compassion, no sensitivity chip... what she had an abundance of was brutal honesty, spite, viciousness, and cruelty. Her biggest fun was in causing others pain and spreading misery; it didn't matter whether is was my mother, father, friend, or a stranger - to her, they were all just potential victims on which to unleash her fury. Fury for what had been done to me. In a sense, she became my guardian; the one to bear what was too much for me to handle, endure, or tolerate.

It was like being in a vehicle with Shade as the passenger - most of the time I was the one in control, the one driving - but say if in this metaphorical car situation someone were to cut me off and flip me the bird, Shade would immediately shove me out of the driver's seat, take the wheel, and proceed to rear-end the offender until satisfied. All I could do was buckle up, grab what I could, and just brace for the storm - an outsider looking in at someone else taking control.

My entire life I have loved psychology, studying body language, and I had an innate gift for sizing people up in a matter of minutes. With those capabilities I possessed, it was easy for me to know people's "hot buttons." You know, the ones you press to really piss someone off. Well, with DiD in the picture, I began to use my powers for evil - when Shade was triggered she would harness all the psychoanalytic techniques and tricks and start assailing the offender with a barrage of cruel words, very often deliberately pressing those hot buttons in the most callous of fashions - with no thought or concern about the person's feelings.

That's when Dissociative Identity Disorder can become very destructive and very hard to overcome. It became a viscous cycle because very often I was left to handle the aftermath of what Shade had just inflicted, which were more than likely often tears and pleading, which would cause a very deep sadness in my heart... well, guess who would come back to handle that sadness for me? Shade. It was three years that I was saddled with unchecked DiD, fully out of control, full swing, no checks or balances, and no end in sight.

Luckily I was very fortunate at the time to know a very gentle man with a proclivity for psychology and psychological motivators. Through his encouragement I was able to recognize that I had Dissociative Identity Disorder, although pride would never allow me to see a licensed psychologist, and the more research I did, the more I read personal testimonies, the more I explored it... the more it made sense. I began to be able to recognize the "triggers" that would cause Shade to emerge. The more I was able to recognize these triggers, the more I was able to ask for space when triggered, and because of that I was able to confine myself, compose myself, and approach things as myself.

It look a long time to heal and overcome the triggers; there were more of them than I had expected and very often I would be caught off guard. That three years was torture and a blessing; torture because I caused my parents and so many loved ones pain and sadness, a blessing because I was able to start "healing" and maintain better control over switching in and out of an alter. The bad news is that my DiD has never fully gone away, nor do I expect it to. It's like scar tissue; the original wound has healed but there is an ever-present mark and reminder that I used to be broken.

To the friends, family, and loved ones that may be affected by someone with DiD: please realize that most - if not all - cases should be treated by a licensed professional. I was lucky that I was blessed with the next best thing - the closest to licensed you could get - and I'll be forever grateful to that man for helping me and for understanding me through it all. But I digress - as I often do - that if you suspect you or a loved one had Dissociative Identity Disorder, please do seek counsel. In the meantime, try to understand that the person in question has no control over these "switches" that take place, even though they may desperately want it more than anything. Above all, as hard as it may seem, try not to take it personally. The DiD does not care who it hurts... all it cares about is protecting that soft inner core of a person. Try seeing someone as a wounded child hiding behind a big tough monster - realize that the wounded child desperately wants to not have to hide behind that barrier - if at all possible, try your best to encourage someone to recognize what's happening and to take a step back. Objectivity is everyone's best friend. When you can realize your triggers - or help someone else recognize theirs - some perspective begins to take place in the DiD world. That's the starting point.

Not everything can be repaired back to mint condition, but many things can be gently and kindly sutured back together to allow the healing to begin. There may always be a minute fissure left from the original damage, but it is never so far gone that it can't beloved and understood.

Until Next Time,
<3 Shade

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Survived A Cult: Memoirs of a Werewolf

Hello Otherbeasts! Today I decided to open up and expose my soft underbelly of truth despite the screaming inside my very soul that says not to. But if I don't share my truth with others, I cannot help others, and that is something I cannot bear. This is a select summary from the book I am writing about this very topic, so plagiarists beware, this title and all information herein is copyrighted to my name because it happened to me in real life.

When people think of the word "cult," the very first images to come to mind are things like the Heaven's Gate suicides or else the David Karesh in Waco thing. People often don't understand that there are different degrees of severity when dealing with the topic of cults. So, lets take the semantics out of the picture: Heaven's Gate is an example of EXTREME cult practices - hell, it got media coverage - but the more sinister side is that cults are often hidden, subtle, and not covered by the media.

The definition as provided by Dictionary.com for the word CULT is:
1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3. the object of such devotion.
4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

Not all cults are media-worthy, but they are all very serious. It's rare to find someone who managed to survive a cult and even more rare to find someone willing to talk about it. Why, you ask? Well, because it's a hard pride pill to swallow to admit that you were suckered into a cult; most people who become involved with cults are intelligent, sensible, kind, and strong-minded... not the type you'd expect to be roped into something that sounds so ridiculous.

So, how do intelligent people get roped into cults? Because a cult never starts off as a "cult;" it starts off as a very benign set of ideas (ideas can be changed), the ideas begin to solidify into beliefs (beliefs are harder to change for they are far less malleable),  and then beliefs turn into closely held personal truths (almost impossible to change)... most often the result of gentle nudging from the "leader" followed up by one's own perceived thoughts manifested into solid, unchanging states of truths. This effect becomes magnified and compounded when more than one person becomes involved because the age old adage of "strength in numbers" applies to cult mentality.

More often that not, the "leader" exhibits very charming are charismatic traits: good-looking, well read, well mannered, polite, intelligent, smooth talking, passionate, and at first deception, honest. Cults could never succeed if the Leader were anything less than admirable. From there the Leader often engenders loyalty. The first tiny seed is planted - something that could be plausible if you were more open minded - and from there that seed roots and grows into a myriad of absolutely absurd things that you would never in your right mind would believe, but because the "truths" are coming from someone you trust, it's much harder to disprove them. More often than not these "truths" can neither be confirmed or denied because there is no solid, concrete evidence to support or deny them, save the Leader and his knowledge on the "truth."

In fact, a lot of cult leaders start off pretty benign and then they start pulling strings until these things happen: Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity). The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them. Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. It gets worse but I'm sure you get the picture.

Let's journey back to 2002. I had just turned 20 years old, I was in my first semester of my second year in college, and I had just gone through a terrible breakup with my first serious boyfriend, and I was very vulnerable. Let me tell you a bit about myself and who I was, I made Dean's List both semesters of freshman college, I founded my own community service sorority (Chi Beta Delta, which is still succeeding), and I had a TON of friends. Now, I was an only child and a bit of a day dreamer with a wicked imagination and a strong fondness for the unknown and mystical.

It was November 1st, the day after I spent Halloween in Austin with a friend, and my cell phone rings from an unknown number. Back then I used to pick it up because it was usually someone I knew but hadn't programmed yet. I picked it up only to hear an Australian accented male voice, "'Ello? Who's this?" My response was, "Well, who is this? You called me." He introduced himself, explained that my number had been on his cell phone from someone trying to reach me the previous night, and he just decided to dial it to make new friends since he was new here in The States. I was hugely skeptical at first but then I remembered giving my number to a girl friend of mine, who gave it to a male friend of her's, just in case she needed to reach me and her phone died. The accent had me hooked and about 2 hours later I was making plans to meet this man at a kid's carnival community service event where all of my girl friends and sorority sisters would be - I wasn't completely stupid and I knew that he could be a rapist or a murderer - it was still a couple days away on a Saturday, and so I figured that if I saw a man out of place at this Carnival, and didn't like his looks for whatever reason, I could simply claim to not know him and explain that whoever he talked to must have given him the slip. 

The day of the carnival came and I was excited and nervous, we had talked on the phone each night leading up to the day of the event. So there I was, at the Carnival, and half the day had gone by, and so I figured this mysterious Aussie had changed his mind. I sat down on the sidewalk and was eating one of those humongous pixie sticks that had turned my mouth blue when I saw him: he was tall, handsome, nice smile, gorgeous eyes, great body, and the sweetest dimples. He hadn't seen me yet and so I hid my eyes underneath the brim of my baseball hat when he sauntered up. His words were like honey as he said my name in a question to me. I looked up and stared into the most amazing hazel eyes I had ever seen. I stood up, introduced myself, and shook his hand. When my hand touched his, it looked as if he went a little weak in the knees, and I was shocked at my effect on him: I had no makeup on save mascara, my mouth was bright blue from the candy I was eating, my hair was up and tucked away through a baseball hat, and this man just faltered at my appearance? Sure enough. And he drove a motorcycle? Sign me up! Enter a man named Taylon (pronounced Talon) which was not his real name anyway, but a self-imposed nickname.

Those first few days were amazing, I just knew that I had met my soul-mate, but something inside said it was too good to be true. We were inseparable for four days: we talked, ate, sang, and it was like we had been doing this routine for years. He was attentive, protective, a good listener, etc, and I was never tiring of listening to an Aussie accent speak to me about the sun, moon, and stars. But I started noticing something different about him: he was wise beyond his years, and spoke as if he were a guru on top of some Tibetan mountain, he carried himself differently, and so my fanciful imagination began to try to piece together everything I was being overwhelmed with. My conclusion was that he was not of this world, but something entirely different. We spoke of magic, metaphysics, and all sorts of paranormal things and he had this animalistic nature about him. I asked him if he was something different that I should know about and he just smiled shyly about it and asked what my theories were. I ventured to say vampire only to be met with a look of disgust and a head-shake... next on my list was a quietly whisper-mutter of the word werewolf. He just peered at me through those greenish-brown eyes and smiled slightly. (This was WAY before the vampire/werewolf frenzy that gripped America in 2006, and before I had seen any sort of movies containing them, I just simply wasn't interested). My jaw dropped. Here I was, in a little burger place in a small town, sitting across from a werewolf. A real live werewolf... in human form. Imagine how special I felt. There was a whole world that existed that I was privy to seeing... and I just knew that there was something different out there, that I hadn't seen before, it just HAD to exist... I felt it. I knew it.

Turns out that the werewolf gene was transmittable, like a virus, if bitten or if body fluids were exchanged. We had intimate relations very often - more so because I was already on board to become a creature of the night - and it turned out that things were "hunting" me because they knew who I was and that if anything happened to me, it would destroy Taylon allowing someone else to usurp the throne. How do you kill a werewolf? Turns out you have to decapitate it. Vampires? They existed, just not like people thought they did, turns out the vampires that walked this earth were more like Anne Rice's Lestat than any "mundane person" could imagine. Werewolves used to be the day guardians for the vampires while they slept in exchange for a truce of freedom instead of being a slave race. No wonder werewolves hated vampires. There were other creatures that existed as well: fyrgoyans, werebears, siganaughts, wyrms, cobrakhans, faeries, elves, etc. Almost everything anyone thought was a myth existed in some form or fashion. I was fascinated by this strange new world.

Fast forward to only about four days later when we were out driving around listening to music and talking when we were pulled over, I checked out but he did not - there was a warrant for his arrest - and so they took him. His last words to me were, "They know who I am and they know who you are... I can't protect you if I'm gone, get back inside the car immediately and drive straight home, when you get there lock all of the doors and windows and don't go outside unless you HAVE to. I'll post sentries outside of your apartment for an extra precaution so don't get nervous if you sense a few things lurking around." 

So I did exactly what he told me. But after I got home and thought about everything that just happened, I had a thought enter my head, "You are a flippin' moron for believing all of this. This CANNOT be real, it goes against all logic. The guy was just arrested based on allegations of fraud and debt. You are SO stupid." I decided not to have anything to do with him and my resolve lasted a good while until he called me from the county jail and begged me to hear his side, that he would tell me everything if I would just come and see him, he would explain everything. I told him curtly, "You have one shot and if you tell me anything other than the truth, this will be over immediately."

He had a rough time explaining to me through the county jail's plexiglass that the charges alleged against him belonged to the name, not to him. How could something belong to a name and not the person? Unless we were talking identity theft. It was nothing that sinister but what would you do if you were hundreds of years old and needed proof of identification? Wouldn't it just be easier to find someone already dead and just assume living under their name? Better yet, what if some of your clan members had a son roughly your age that had died, and the resemblance was passable? Seems plausible. Everything he said seemed to make sense given the circumstances, and I was willing to keep an open mind. He pleaded with me about being careful while he was "locked in a cage." I decided to give him a second chance because maybe - just maybe - I was actually hearing the truth.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only was he a werewolf, and part of this amazing clan, but that he was King of the Clan... which made me Queen. Queen of the Werewolves? Sign me up please! He informed my that my wolf's rightful name was Shaderra which meant "warrior queen," I liked it, it had a ring to it: Queen Shaderra. I got to be a bad ass and live practically forever? Hell yeah, since I was terrified of death. Turns out his "father" was also a werewolf - though not his biological father - and part of the clan whose son died recently hence allowing Taylon to assume the identity. Turns out that the Aussie's real name was Taylon J. Philbourne (also not a real name) but it was stamped into his military tags along with his social security number and other pertinent information. Then he showed me something unbelievable: the medals he had been honored with from serving in the military. Everything about his story was checking out and he told me he had known he met his soulmate when we first met, that it felt like lightning had struck him since our skin first touched back at the carnival.

I took his phone calls from the county jail and we conversed through snail mail for a whole almost two months, I would even go visit him when I could, driving an hour each way to see his face. He explained to me through letters the finer details about the clan, about himself, about werewolves, and about what happened with the name he had assumed. Turns out the name that wasn't his had driven a vehicle leased in Texas all the way to Florida without coming back, and he was completely innocent and having to face this other man's charges. He demonized the name he assumed and made it sound so unfair, I was angry at his "parents" for not telling him about their son's records or what the King was signing up for when he assumed the identity... how dare they! 

There was an even bigger plot, his "parents" knew what their real son's record was, failed to tell him so that he would be arrested and held against his will, bound by the law, so that his "father" could claim the throne. But his "father" couldn't claim it while there was still a Queen holding the throne, and so I was told to watch my back and be extra careful. This "reality" became quite real for me when on December 7, 2002 I was traveling on the county highway to go visit him behind bars, when I glanced at a van sitting at the corner of a three way intersection, I could swear that it was his "parents," and when I looked back to the road the car in front of me had slammed on the brakes and my car was speeding toward it at 45mph. I had two options: rear-end the car at 45mph or swerve around it and avoid a collision. In a split second I had swerved around the car but my own had caught gravel and was thrust into a skid back across the highway, into oncoming traffic, hitting a sign, into a ravine and promptly rolled four times in a field. 

All I remember was the beginning, the glass crashing in, and then nothing. The next thing I remembered was "waking up," sitting in my car - somehow still upright - with the contents of my purse strewn about me. There was a man running up to my car and was trying to open the door from the outside but it wouldn't budge since it had impacted driver-side first. I reached for the handle, popped it open, and the guy swung the door open, looked at me and quite bewildered asked, "Are you okay?" To which I responded, "Hi!" He probably thought I had severe brain damage and asked me again if I was all right and urged me to get out of the car. I told him I had to collect what had fallen out of my purse and then I'd step out. For some reason I thought it was important, the good Samaritan must have known I was in shock and calmly waited for me to collect my lip gloss and mascara before helping me out of the smoldering heap that was formerly my Toyota Rav 4. I glanced back at the intersection and the van had disappeared. I thought it was a bit strange.

The good Samaritan urged me to sit alongside the highway by his car as I heard the wails of an ambulance growing louder as it was quickly approaching our position. He was asking me if I was hurt, if I felt any pain anywhere, to relax, and that help was coming. I couldn't understand why he was so concerned but before I cold ask him what he saw, the EMTs had jumped out of the ambulance and rushed to my side, taking my vitals, asking me if I knew my name, what year it was, who the current president was, etc. I answered all questions correctly, they asked me if I would like to be transported by ambulance to the ER. I declined knowing it would cost my parents money. My parents. Crap. I had to call them and explain what just happened. The little town of Kyle's Sheriff had shown up to question me as well and call a tow truck since my vehicle was now totaled. I calmly called my mother and said, "Mom, everything is okay and I'm perfectly fine, but I was just in an accident. Could you and daddy please come get me?" I told them my location and then hung up to tell the Sheriff what had happened. He asked me the same questions over and over and I told him exactly what took place. He stayed with me until my folks arrived and after my mother saw the car, she burst into tears and gathered me in a hug. 

I got into my parent's car and explained to them that I needed to go to Bastrop to go see a sorority sister that had landed herself in county because of a MIP charge. I had to get to Taylon because I knew that he would know something was wrong if I didn't show. My parents refused and took me straight home. (The ultimate punchline in all of this was that a couple weeks later I received two tickets in the mail for the accident. The first was for not wearing my seat belt - to which my father took pictures of my collarbone where the seat belt had rubbed a burn into my skin (not to mention the scrapes on my shins from the underside of the dashboard and the huge lump on the left side of my head) to prove I was wearing my seat belt, which if I hadn't been, I probably would have been thrown from the car) - and the second ticket was for, "driving at an unsafe speed based on the condition of the road." What a joke, I had been going 5mh UNDER the speed limit, on a newly paved road, in broad daylight, on a bright, sunny day. What a load of BS.)

That incident really raised into sharp relief that someone must have intended that to happen - there were people out to get me - and this was confirmed the next time I spoke with Taylon; one of his lieutenants had informed him of what happened. He was just glad that I was alive. And frankly, so was I. We continued on the phone and through mail until I couldn't stand it any longer and pleadingly begged a friend to help me meet his posted bond. And so with that I bailed him out of jail at the tail end of December, and I knew I was going to live happily ever after... forever. 

The weird thing is, I felt different... stronger, more agile, etc. Shortly after I learned all of this, he informed me that I had snapped my neck during the accident, but since I already had the virus coursing through my body, it had triggered an emergency response and the virus when full throttle into a frenzy to alter my DNA, and as a result the break in my neck had healed almost instantaneously. It made sense - I remembered the first part of the accident, then absolutely nothing, and then suddenly "waking up with a jolt" gasping for air - and I knew it had to be true. How else did I survive rolling my car in a field 4 times? He explained to me that there might be some problems due to it triggering so quickly, that my body was going to adjust faster than my mind would be able to cope with (we're talking about 20 years of knowing werewolves didn't exist) and so that we could run into some problems like me shifting and not remembering anything, waking up in strange places, or with strange markings. But he held my hand and promised to help every step of the way.

All of that coupled with the new notion that I never got sick not even once (we're talking a sinus infection and the flue every fall from the time I was 4 or 5) and I never really injured myself, and when I did the healing was a lot more rapid than I remembered it being. I was on top of the world, I was strong, beautiful, immortal, and powerful; I was the Queen and I was going to be able to physically shift into a werewolf with each passing day.

Then I learned the most surprising thing: he was able to communicate with other members of the clan by "channeling" them. You wouldn't believe how many celebrities were part of the werewolf clan, but it made sense at the time - I got to meet lots of nifty people, a lot of them so much cooler in real life than their "media faces." There were also different rankings in the clan, there were Lieutenants - fondly called "Diamonds" - as well as Guardians, Sentries, Mercs, and so on. Then things got pretty serious when I was allowed to speak with my grandmother who had passed away 8 years before... she knew things that Taylon could never have known since I had never told him... even down to the game we used to play when, as a kid, I would not eat the crust off of my toast and so she would make them into Jelly Rolls and threaten to eat them, to which I responded by gobbling them down. I missed my grandmother terribly and hearing from her was such a blessing because I never got to tell her that I loved her one last time or even say goodbye, until then when I was able to. 

(I'll leave out the part where I was forced to stay with my parents - they didn't like Taylon - and when I threatened to call him to come get me, they threatened back with kicking me out of the house. I made the call anyway and was whisked away back to my apartment on a motorcycle, only to be met by my parents pleading with me to come back home. I conceded for a short while until I realized that I was Queen and could do whatever the fork I pleased.) But I will include that during this time each and every single friend I had was being pushed away from me: some were not safe, others didn't appreciate my behavior, I burned some bridges, and everyone I knew sort of vanished into the abyss. I didn't care though because I was a werewolf. Duh.

A few weeks after the accident Taylon found out that it was set up by his "parents" along with an entity named "Banglador," who was basically a demon spawn. He had to go fight this creature or else it was going to find us first. He left for a whole hour and I was so worried, I was especially surprised when he came back with scratches, welts, and bruises. No one in their right mind would do that to themselves... there were clearly defined claw marks, very wide and thick, on his back that were impossible for him to reach, so he couldn't have done it himself. This world was real and I would just have to come to terms with it. A werewolf versus a demon? It's what happened on more than one occasion.

How could he do this? What was the science behind it? There wasn't any... it was all metaphysical and spiritual. Then I found out the hardest pill to swallow - one thing that I was forbidden from telling anyone or recording anywhere because it meant my life - the one thing I am reluctant to reveal now, out of fear, as I type... Taylon could speak with God. Yeah, take a deep breath and read it again.  He could speak with and channel God Himself because of a divine link provided by his soul belonging to and harboring an angel named Mettatron. Turns out I was harboring one too: Raphael, who was actually a "female angel," with a sister named Sashelle. And since I was part angelic, God was technically my father (my mother had Poly Cyctic Ovarian Syndrome and the chances of having a baby, let alone me, were next to nill, something I had never even once mentioned to Taylon) and so I fondly called him "Dad." (Daddy was reserved for my earth father.) I recorded all information about this and every conversation I had with "God," because I was highly skeptical, in my journal for review months or even years later. Somehow he found out and ordered me to rip the pages out of my journal for no one was to know, save us, and if an enemy broke in and stole my journal all would be put in peril. Conversely you can deduce that if I could talk to God then I was able to speak with Lucifer as well through Taylon's channeling. Turns out "Lucy" and I got along better than peas and carrots, I preferred to converse with him instead of "Dad."

As far as handling his 'attempted-to-murder-me' "parents," they were handled by what Taylon called a "Wiper." It was a member of the clan that had the ability of erasing memories and replacing them with others. So the Wiper was dispatched to his "parent's" house and did his job. His "father" still knew that he himself was a werewolf and part of the clan, but he no longer remembered that he had a murderous vendetta against me or Taylon. His "mother," on the other hand, basically forgot everything about werewolves... like she had been "wiped" too many times. The poor woman could count to potato and subtract to tomato, with intermittent babble about the chickens, the dog, or Taylon's "father's" (we called him The Old Man) blood sugar. He had type 2 diabetes and his adrenal glands were shot from overuse, he was what we called a "Beserker:" a werewolf who had no logical sense when shifted but instead just pure rage and adrenaline. I felt badly for Taylon's "sister," her husband was a prick, but her kid was hilarious; she pretended the werewolf stuff just didn't exist, it was never a denial or a confirmation, just a skirting about the topic entirely.

About a year after absorbing all of this information and learning the ways of the wolf, I was given a royal task: to have a baby. I dug in my heels and absolutely refused. I was coerced into going off birth control (which I NEVER did, I just hid it very well, I knew I didn't need a kid, nor did I want one) which angered him very much because I never got pregnant. I was given another Royal Task: I must choose a Guardian for myself to act as a protector for when Taylon wasn't there. I was working at the college at the time and looking at Goldenwolf's art when a very tall young girl walked by, then took a few steps back, peered at my screen and asked excitedly, "You like Goldenwolf, too?" Heck yeah I did, she drew werewolves. This young woman and I made friends pretty fast, even after only knowing me a few minutes she drew a wolf's head on a post-it note and wrote neatly beneath it, "Packmates for Life!" A bit of a prophet that one.

I'll never forgive myself but I desperately needed a friend, one who could understand where I was coming from, what I was going through, and maybe someone to help me... maybe even someone to guard me. I introduced her to Taylon and we interviewed her for the position of Guardian. She had loved wolves since forever and knew that she was a wolf on the inside, she was sold the second she found out this world existed... just like me, she knew it existed but had never been able to see it before... until now. She became my sister.

She lived with us for a year; she was my constant companion, my best friend, my confidant, my guardian, and the only one who was aware of the same world that I was. She, too, learned the deeper secrets - the ones about God, Lucy, and the angels - and Taylon seemed to know things about her that even her closest friends wouldn't. She and I had shared dreams of shifting and running around, we even compared notes and details would match up, it had to have happened or else how would we both know the information? She also shared part of her soul with the angel Metattron. I guess we were more of a handful than Taylon anticipated because we were often dealt with by "Dad," and then a rotating number of "babysitters," most of which were angelic. For every angel we had a nickname which they hated, but answered to when we had questions. For instance Af was Cake (Eddie Izzard joke), Hagoth was "Haggard" (Merle), Melchisedek was "Milk" (to go with Cake), Sashelle was "Seashell" (rhyme), and I can't really remember them all, but I remember Sandalfon being my favorite - he was always bright, chipper, and fun. Actually Michael may have been called "Milk" now that I think about it. Through it all we retained our humor and probably pissed off more than a dozen entities. My Guardian was given a name as well, we called her "Blakyra" (but stuck with her nickname of BK for short and ease of use) which meant "guardian" and was the female form of "Blayloch." We called Taylon Zarr because that was short for his wolf's name of Zarrammarra or Zamarra, or Zarrmara... whatever.

All sorts of odd things were noted and discussed between BK and me. Alongside of the shared dreams where we shifted, she and I both awoke at different times only to see a very tall, dark, fuzzy creature staring down at us - Taylon explained that our "human" minds couldn't yet handle seeing a werewolf and so it distorted into a fuzzy blob upon remembering. Once we went camping and Taylon physically shifted too close to the tent and triggered BK's shift - which her body wasn't ready for yet - and so she awoke to what felt like a red hot metal poker stabbing her in the chest before passing out. I had several moments of excruciating pain as well when a shift would take place to close to me. There were missing gaps of time we had no explanation for along with stranger things like BK being able to pick up the back end of a car. I even witnessed Zarr and BK lift a tractor trailer for sport. At one point I uprooted a 200 pound cedar tree out at a break we were working with his "parents." BK and I needed answers and so she decided to do the unthinkable: she was going to ask The Old Man if it were all true - something Taylon had forbade us from even mentioning, despite him and The Old Man joking profusely about it, only slight mentions that other wolves would pick out of a conversation - but she was after the truth.

So one evening when we (by we I mean myself, Taylon, BK, and The Old Man) were all piled into the 18 wheeler cab, BK sat in the back and spoke with The Old Man in hushed tones about werewolves... and the Old Man admitted to being one, admitted to Taylon being one, but got furiously livid when BK mentioned Taylon not being his son, and even more irate when she mentioned Taylon being the King. He immediately corrected her and informed her that yes, Taylon was his son - though he had a milkman theory - but that he was NOT the King of any clan, that there wasn't any "Clan" on the scale of which Taylon spoke, but there was a clan consisting of about 15 local members. He told BK that Taylon had lied about those things and then started to explain to her that she was actually a descendent of some old wolf he knew that made her a reincarnation of an indian princess and that the wolf was ancient native american magic and shamanism. Ask her.

We even spoke to someone, a female, in Florida that Zarr knew who channeled Gabriel... I mean, it had to be true; the Old Man, Gabe, and one other man who were corroborating the werewolf stuff. Different sources! (I won't even talk about Florida here, but suffice it to say, BK and I discovered he was lying and cheating, among various other undesirable things... but that set in motion a dangerous yearning for the real truth... I don't think he knew what a force BK and I were to reckon with, he definitely underestimated two brilliant female minds.)

Talk about more confusion on top of an already wildly spinning carnival ride. Slowly but surely all the plates that Taylon was spinning began to wobble with the threat of crashing and the loose ends began to surface. He became moody, suspicious, uncooperative, controlling, abusive (mentally, emotionally, physically, psychologically), and just a downright snake. BK and I couldn't even have the conversations we wanted to when he was present, and so we developed a natural sort of telepathy in which conversations were carried on using glances, body posture, looks, and silence. We'd all three be in a room, Taylon usually absorbed in a video game, while we sat on the couch in silence when a look would come across one of our faces and we would crack up. Taylon got real tired of that and started pitting us against each other. He would tell me one thing and tell BK another, and so animosity built between us, the closest friend I had in the world, and we started not talking at all but sulking at each other when Taylon was present, however when he would leave we would immediately complain to one another about him. Taylon was the mutual bane of our existences.

Eventually about a year later BK and I sat down one evening, sulky and complaining, because Taylon had gone to bed when the issue of a particular night came into question. We compared notes and found about eleventy billion lies involved. We slowly started to unravel the intricately tangled web of lies and deceit and uncovered some truth. He had been telling BK that she was the rightful Queen, that I was suppose to be her guardian but that I wouldn't back down - he was the victim. And at the same time he was telling me that BK had complained about being my guardian, that she didn't like her "job," and that she had hit on him and come onto him - he was the victim. We were so furious that we sat on my couch for about 3 hours in total silence just staring at each other, having another mental conversation, because he was asleep in the next room. We stayed up all night and when Taylon awoke the next morning at 7am, there were two very pissed off women sitting on the couch glowering at him. He immediately knew that there was something wrong. He sat down on his recliner and just stared at us, bracing for the storm.

BK sat in silence just staring at Taylon until her anger burst forth. She told him that he was an absolutely worthless human being, that no one would ever love him, and that his father hated him - from his own mouth. I looked over at Taylon and could see tears brimming in his eyes; my heart hurt for him.  I jumped when she screamed at Taylon, "What the fuck kind of person ARE you?" I looked back to him, he had curled up on himself, into the fetal position, pulling his knees to his chest and was toying with the butt of an extinguished cigarette.

I jumped again, startled by BK's piercing voice, "LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M SPEAKING TO YOU, YOU PIECE OF SHIT." I saw disgust in her expression and she shook her head as if she was trying to dismiss the thoughts. I watched her stand up. I could see anger wracking her body, making her hands quiver and tremble. Her lips had pressed tightly closed, making thin pale, pink lines. I could see she was struggling for self control. I was so bewildered that I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. I felt like iron manacles had locked me into place and a ball-gag had been shoved in my mouth and down my gullet.

 I looked back at Taylon again, his eyes crawled up from the floor guiltily. I could see that he was wounded, something inside of him was screaming with anguish; it hurt my heart to look at him. She was right, his father had never loved him. I could see the pain from BK's words etched into his face, drudging up painful, unpleasant memories. I felt so sorry for him – he looked so much like a small child in that moment. My thoughts wandered to BK. How she must be feeling – used, abused, manipulated – my heart twisted again, this one a little more painful, how could he have done that to her? Anger seethed in my jaw and caused the muscles to involuntarily clench. I looked up at her, her silvery green eyes already on my face. I locked gazes with the wild, wounded woman that I loved more than life itself. She was the reasoning voice in my head, my constant companion, my guardian – I had come to depend on her so much. She spoke to me, pleading, “Come with me,” her fierce green eyes burned into mine.

How I wanted to leave and go with her! Those manacles tightened around my body, making movement impossible. The lump had begun to lodge itself in my throat; I was fighting against it – Taylon couldn't see what this was doing to me; I wouldn't let him see it. I mustered all my strength and it was only just enough to stand from my seat on the couch. BK embraced me with a silent request in her tight bear hug; I wish I could have held on longer, tighter, so that she would have had to drag me out of there. My best friend, my sister – the only thing I knew of one - my sister friend soul mate. Her hug changed and it held finality. It was a goodbye. I felt her give up and release me.

My soul wanted to scream for her before she had even left - wanted to demand that she pick me up and carry me out of that place because I didn't have the strength or courage to walk out on my own – wanted to tell her that I needed her so very much... but it all stuck in my throat, like someone had wrapped a hand around it, and the only sound that escaped was a croak. I knew she was thinking that she had just wasted a year on me. I never felt hate from her though – only regret; only pity. I could feel her anger still shooting daggers into his body.

BK was trembling, the adrenaline coursing through her veins – her mind was made up – as well as I knew her - I knew that she had made a decision. I could see her etching meaningful thoughts behind her eyes. Her jade irises locked with my chocolate ones, a softer look – she was making sure I wouldn't forget her, that I wouldn't forget the friendship; I lost myself again in choked off tears. She tore her gaze away, altering it now and piercing him with hard emerald jewels – making sure that he wouldn't ever be free from the guilt for what he had done to her. I watched her break eye contact and turn on her heel to walk out. How I admired her, I was falling to pieces and she hadn't even shed a tear.

That was the hardest full moon I ever had. I went for a walk that night, claiming I needed to get some fresh air and when I was out in the middle of our old field, my knees buckled and I collapsed onto the wet, grassy ground. I stared up at the cruel moon and howled – the pain of loss wracking my body and choking off the howl into guttural sobs of anguish. I clutched at the grass and cried into the damp earth. I must've fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes, the moon was at a different position in the sky. No one had come looking for me. I dragged myself back to my apartment, back to an empty bed and fell into a fitful sleep. I awoke the next morning only to feel that icy dagger of absence lodge in my heart. It wasn't getting better. It wasn't ever going to. Not until she was back in my life. BK broke all contact with me - I don't blame her - she needed distance to find herself again.

In May Taylon and I moved out to the middle of nowhere in Wimberley out on 12 acres of property into a rental house. I was afraid of being so isolated and disconnected and so I would go to the small library in the middle of that tiny town and get on the internet. BK was still recovering from the whole ordeal and wouldn't speak to me for months. I pleaded and begged her to speak with me; she was the only one who knew what sort of danger I was in. Finally a couple months later she resumed speaking to me over IM, begging me to get out of the relationship with Taylon. I started hearing the voice of reason, that spell he had weaved around me slowly began to lose it's strength, and that's when the reality of leaving a cult leader settled into direct clarity.

Since March I had been emotionally distancing myself from Taylon. If I were to just announce unexpectedly that I was leaving he might have flown into a rage tantrum and murdered me. Taylon was very volatile and uncontrollable when angry. Leaving a cult is risking your life. A few months later around August I really started edging toward leaving but it was so hard. Right around that time BK would call me or IM me and plead with me to leave Taylon; she was my biggest cheerleader in the campaign to escape him.

In October I went to go visit BK where she was staying with a friend while on a weekend away from college. I had a blast, we hung out, ate sushi, laughed, talked, and cried. I knew I had to leave Taylon, but how? We schemed, we talked, we brainstormed. I prayed for an answer. When I left Houston to drive back to Wimberley I received a call from Taylon, he was parked at the Love's gas station on a run to Katy and back. I was passing through Katy that very moment. On a run my ass - he had been following me. He insisted I meet him and I did, told him I had a good time, and that I was driving back to our house. He sensed my distance and questioned my loyalty; I assured him I wasn't going anywhere but I was lying through my teeth... I had a plan and I received a very clear message to my prayer: after meeting Taylon and driving back home I was pleading for a sign to give me clarity on if leaving was the right thing to do. It was at that moment that I saw a bright yellow billboard with red letters that read, "This Is Your Sign." That was it... I had a mission now.

But this was no ordinary mission, Taylon had NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), and not knowing whether I was to face Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde was literally putting me on pins and needles. I had to do this intelligently. So finally in November - 8 months after BK left in March - while Taylon was out on an 8 hour run to Laredo, around 4am in the morning, I pulled all of my stuff out of every nook and cranny in the house and piled it in the middle of the kitchen floor. I called BK and told her that I was leaving Taylon; she met me with nothing but supportive, bolstering encouragements. Then I called my mother and told her that I was leaving Taylon. Since I was afraid for my life she immediately wanted to come get me and bring me home, but I had three dogs to worry about facing Taylon's wrath - he had threatened to kill them before. So my mother agreed to drive to me, help me load the dogs, and then return home.

Then I made the hardest and potentially the most dangerous phone call of my life... I called Taylon and informed him that I was leaving. He begged and pleaded with me to wait until he was back from Laredo so we could discuss it and work through it, but my stuff was already packed. It was too dangerous for me to stay and possibly incur his wrath. I couldn't even just make a clean break, I had to demote the relationship to "dating" to convince him it wasn't entirely over and that he still had a chance to win me back so he wouldn't kill me.

I moved back in with my parents and "dated" Taylon for the next 3 months until February. In between those 3 months I didn't know up from down or left from right. I was trying to sever the final tie between Taylon and I over the phone one night when he flipped into a rage tantrum and threatened to come to my parent's house and kill the dog I wouldn't let him have (I could take better care of her) and his exact words were, "If you won't give me that dog back, then I'll go spend 30 cents on a bullet and put it through her skull, and you'll be lucky if I don't do the same to you."

It was in February that I met a wonderful human being named Andre (not his real name) who repaired the almost irreparable psychological mess Taylon had left in his wake. This man even came to Texas to visit me and BK, but while he was here, his life was in danger as well. Taylon somehow found out which motel Andre was staying at (and I was staying with him) and while I was at an evening college class, went over to the hotel and confronted Andre. Andre did the smart thing and walked with Taylon over to the local diner to buy him a cup of coffee. When I returned from class and pulled into the motel parking lot I saw two silhouetted figures sitting on the curb outside the motel room. Adrenaline and fear shot through my body... this was going to be a double homicide. I cautiously walked up and greeted them both. Taylon had calmed down considerably from what I could tell and we all sat in the motel room talking, while Andre played therapist. Taylon finally conceded and left. The next morning Andre had the perfect separation speech prepared for me to read over the phone to Taylon to finally break things off... and it worked. I was free... for a little while.

Andre went back to California and Taylon came back around wanting to date me again - I had an ulterior motive - to which I accepted on one condition: that he tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This was over a phone call during the day when college classes were taking place. I should have been in class but I had to have the truth.

Taylon was caught between a boulder and a slab of cement. He knew that I knew, but even admitting it would completely unravel all the intricate lies he had spent so many years weaving. Though if he were to try and lie again to me, I would know - without a shadow of a doubt - his betrayal and his twisted words. I would know because my information came from a source unseen, a source that wasn't him. BK had been courageous enough to tell me that they had slept together for almost the whole amount of time she spent with us. She even told me what the Old Man had told her.

I asked him about everything. How we met. How he really got my number. His real name. His real age. The angel and God stuff. His birth parents. His alleged charges from jail. His previous marriages. He wasn't under an assumed name. He wasn't from Australia. He couldn't speak to God. He wasn't the King. I asked him about the werewolf stuff... I will never know the full truth about that one, but what I do know that he was not the King of the Clan. Everything I needed to know was answered. My mind was made up. I was as good as gone.

Through the silence of the truth over the open phone line was the man I had never known... he was a complete stranger. The man I once knew was strong, proud and regal... and fictional. This was not that man anymore. I saw him through new eyes, through a new spectrum. I saw before me a child. A scared, lonely and insecure little boy who had to create life around himself because he was so afraid of being unworthy. I saw a demon, raging against what he knew was right, struggling to prevail and win this battle. I saw a monster, hideous and lecherous... but what I really saw was my biggest mistake and the hardest lesson I've had to learn.

Seeing that pitiful shell of a man was sobering and it allowed me to walk away. Three and a half years later I was free... I was finally free. I am also one of the lucky ones to be able to say that I was in a cult, survived it, and walked away with far less damage than other unfortunate survivors. What I did walk away with was PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder. I'm lucky it was that.

It took me three years to stop being angry at God - the real God who answered my prayers - three years to sift through the worst emotional baggage, 6 years to recover from an extremely traumatizing event, and a full decade to build up the courage to speak about it.

To this day I still have holes and gaps in my memory that should not be there. There are still a handful of things that I've seen with my own eyes or witnessed for myself that cannot be denied or confirmed. There are irreconcilable events that have no explanation no matter how much science or truth is applied. There will always be mystery surrounding certain events that I cannot explain. 

After ten years - a whole decade of silence - it's a weight off of my shoulders to tell the whole truth - not just to my closest friends for fear of judgement, but to the entire world to hear my story. I'm sharing it because I don't want anyone else to have to suffer in silence, feel like they're alone, feel like there's no way out, or any of the ways I felt during that hellish experience. If any part of this is true then I expect I'll be quite dead soon for my treason, however, if I remain alive at least I'll just look like a crazy person who was suckered into something so unbelievably stupid.

I sincerely apologize to everyone and anyone who I hurt along the way. Please forgive me.

My Blog about having Dissociative Identity Disorder: Click.

Otherbeasts, please recognize the warning signs and always be careful.

Until Next Time,
<3 Shade

Thursday, November 8, 2012

20 (25) Little Unknown Things About Having Dreadlocks

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Hello cherished Otherbeasts, dreaded or not! Today I decided to write about the little things - the fine print, if you will - that are included when one has dreadlocks.

20, 21, 22, 23, 24,
25 Little Unknown Things About Having Dreadlocks

1. The Fuzzies
Everybody I know goes through this phase and depending on the hair type it can last anywhere from two months to two years. But this phase is bollocks to most! It's infuriating, frustrating, discouraging, and just a general pain in the donkey. But don't get demoralized, it's just a phase and it WILL calm down. Just be prepared for the fact that phases of fuzziness are just a part of the dreading cycle: it will come and it will go.

2. Loops
Oh, dreadful loops! Thou art the bane of mine existence! Yes, well... they happen. It usually occurs when some of the hair in the dread tightens up faster than the rest, leaving the others to get caught up and billow out into a nice ol' loop. Now some dread-heads I know love - and I mean LOVE - loops because the loops "add character" to the dreadlock itself. Now me, I'm not as free-spirited as those loop lovers - I admire them fiercely - because my OCD simply cannot (will not) stand for loops. I am far to much of a perfectionist to have a loop appear and not meddle with it. However, it's a part of dreaded life, you either embrace it or try to fix it, but either way loops WILL happen... especially if you're waiting for your dreads to mature. Have faith though, eventually those too will pass... and then cycle back around.

3. "Oh, is your hair real? Your hair is so cool! Can I touch it?"
Believe it or not this happens pretty much anywhere you go, be it disc golf, the grocery store, a gas station, the Renaissance Festival, a gathering of friends and family, or just out. If you're uncomfortable with random people asking you about your dreads or wanting to touch them, get over it quickly, it's just a part of having dreadlocks. Most dreadies I know are not uncomfortable when approached by total strangers but rather flattered at the attention. I myself, don't understand why they non-dreaded refer to my hair as "it" instead of "them." I suppose to me, having dreads is like having a lot of pets of sorts, it's a "them," after all, no two are alike.

4. Favorites
All dread heads I know have at least one favorite dread. How can that be? Aren't all of them the same? Well, little Johnny, they're all different; some are fat and thick, others are fine and thin, some are loopy as a loon, some look like a constant squiggle, the possibilities are endless. But for one reason or another, one or more of these become a favorite. But favorites can change on a daily basis, one day you love that one special one that tightened up faster than all the others but the next day you notice it's a little flat and not so cool, but then you find one that looks like a peacock feather... new favorite! It can be on a daily basis. My point is: dreads are ever changing and ever shifting so don't feel bad about loving one on Monday and hating it by Wednesday.

5. Flakes
OMG, really? Yes, really. It too, is also a phase. Remember your hair is not used to this routine. Some people get flakes and others do not. Some people get really gnarly flakes. Here's the thing about them: they aren't gross or from a lack of hygiene, flakes happen when the dry skin sloughs off your scalp (it happens all over the rest of your body, too... shocker, I know), but since so many hairs are clumped together in a small area, the flake usually has about 2 or three hairs holding it in place; the flakes can't simply be combed out and so they just sort of sit there and say hello until the next washing occurs. For some who get the big ol' flakes cause their scalp is angry should just use a baking soda wash with an apple cider vinegar rinse... gets dreads super clean and all tingly feeling, and bye bye flakes!

6. Stray Hairs
Oh, they do happen. One day your dreads are looking super smooth and the next you have a clump of strays sticking out like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals. It happens, some new hair grew in, it didn't grow into one of your dreads, and so now it's just sticking out all goofy like. There is a fix if you want to pull the stray hairs back in and it's simple: dread the strays into a little ball and gently pull that little ball into the base of the dread with a crochet hook (this is the only crocheting method I condone after causing havoc on mine by doing it all over). If you love stray hairs like you love loops, then just let them be, they'll find their way.

7. Separating
In the community we have what's known as a "congo." In laymen terms it means 2 or 3 or more dreads that have adhered to each other like velcro and keep growing together resulting in one massive dread with a bunch of tendrils. Some people LOVE congos. Others not so much, which is where separating comes into play. Every few days run your hands through your dreads and pull each one apart from the rest, it'll prevent dreaded congos that are hard to work through if you don't want them.

8. The Urge to Snip, Clip, or Trim
Yes, it happens, people like me can't stand the "sticky-outies" and get the urge to run a razor down the shaft of a dread and nick off those little pokies, but I insist that you do not. They'll just appear somewhere else. When I first started dreading I thought I was smart by clipping off strays that weren't part of a dread (because I had no idea how to fix them) thinking, "Oh, they'll grow into a dread when they grow out." I was wrong. Instead I got several Alfalfa spikes. Again, just let them go. And again, I strongly suggest not snipping, clipping, or trimming dreads, it'll manifest another problem entirely. Trimming the end when mature and you think they're too long, go for it. Gently.

9. Paintbrush Tips
Since my dreads are still in the maturation phase the tips are wispy and paintbrush like, which is my opinion is a great thing since this allows them to dry faster, but a lot of people want the "blunt" tips for that "mature" look. Sure it's a great look, but if your dreads aren't fully mature, the wispy tips will just come back (trust me, I tried "blunting" my own only to have them go paintbrush again). The only real way to obtain blunt tips is through time and dread maturity, it's like a badge of honor, you must wait to receive yours, my young Padawan. For now, be grateful that it doesn't take your dreads half a day (or one whole day) to dry after a shower.

10. Cut Up Fingertips
If you decide you're a maintenance sort of person and want to tame loops, strays, and etcetera, you might decide to do minimal crocheting on your dreads. BEWARE, if you do, at some point you WILL stab yourself with the hook, be it in the cuticle, in the pad of your finger, or in your knuckle, it will happen. If this doesn't sound bearable to you then I suggest to just "let it be."

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11. The Itching
It does happen. You slept on a dread funny, your scalp is irritated, dry scalp, dandruff, and many more reasons, whatever your case may be, can cause itching. It's just a fact of dread life. If you can't tolerate it and you feel like you want to tear your scalp off from your head by your dreads, I suggest a warm baking soda rinse followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse; it's like toothpaste for your scalp... it gets all in there - even the tightest of dreads - tingles deliciously, calms the scalp, and makes your hair squeaky clean. Aside of that, do try tea tree oil or peppermint oil (take it easy with both) in a spray bottle (I really mean take it easy with the stuff, like 4 or 5 drops per pint when first starting) and spray your locks with the solution for instant itch relief (really, trust me on this one, a dreaded friend of mine used too much peppermint oil and 'burned' his scalp, which protested with dandruff and HUGE skin flakes for about 3 months afterwards) plus it makes your hair smell great!

12. Salt Water Spray
You'll hear a lot of dread babies say that to help tighten locks up faster to spritz them down with a sea salt and water solution, and while the salt water does help tighten the dreads, try not to get any on your scalp - salt is very basic, and when sprayed on the scalp it throws the PH off resulting in itching, dandruff, and flakes - a lot of dreadies combat this by adding a few drops of tea tree, lavender, or peppermint oil to the solution for a calming effect on the scalp, but still be careful! I would rather go swim in the ocean and do it the natural way. Even without the salt water, they will tighten up rather quickly on their own.

13. Dirty Hair Does Not Dread
This is a very, very true statement, but it's a commonly misheld (it's an irregular verb) belief that dreadlocks are dirty. Your hair MUST be clean to dread. Let me put it this way... ever made spaghetti and added butter to it? It's delicious right? Aside of deliciousness, the spaghetti does not stick together, it slips and slides all over itself. Ever rinsed spaghetti and then cooked it without adding any butter (lubricant)? It sticks all over itself! It's the same principal with hair: the oilier it is, the harder it is to dread... the cleaner it is, the quicker it dreads! Don't let people scare you out of not washing your dreads because "they'll come undone" if you do it too often or with the wrong product. It's true that you need a residue free shampoo, but why? So that your hair is squeaky clean with no left over "conditioning" products that act like butter and cause your hair to slip and slide all over itself. And believe you me, if you tried to comb out one of your dreads right now, you'd see how difficult it REALLY is, no shampoo can just automatically "rinse out" the knots. Wash as often as you did before, regardless of if your hair is one week or one year old. Clean = Knotty.

14. Beads Can Cause Weak Spots In Immature Dreads
Okay, not if they're the bead wraps or the cylindrical tube beads (well, they do to an extent) but beads that are too small for the diameter of your dread will compress the hair, the hair will find an easier way to knot, and when the bead comes off, you're left with a weak point in your dread. I made the mistake of getting too excited and throwing small beads on immature dreads; well, when the dreads bulked up (expect a 30% increase in mass and volume as the dread knots, or about at thick as the section of hair comprising the dread) the bead basically put a strangle-hold on the dreadlock and when I couldn't take the bead out because it wouldn't move up or down due to the dread tightening above and below the bead (it was dumb wooden craft bead - nothing spectacular) I had to break/crack it off with a few gentle taps with the hammer, and guess what was there... un-dreaded hair! My dread would bend in the most awkward of ways and I was afraid it was going to fall off at the weak point. I did what I could with my crochet hook (very gently) to get the hair to knot, and then I wrapped wool roving around it and felted it in to provide strength. Don't do what I did. Get your beads the right size and do try to have some patience. If you simple cannot wait to decorate your locks I suggest wraps of all kind, cylinder wraps/beads, tube beads, etc.

15. I Can Wear My Hair Two Ways: Up or Down
Wrong! There's lots of ways to wear dreads. You can wear it in a half ponytail and let the other half down. You can braid it into a french braid (or two for braid pigtails). You can wear pigtails. You can wrap it into a bun and stick all the loose ends in for a neat look. You can half-bun it and have all the spikeys in a lions mane around the bun. It's really about wearing your dreads the same exact way that you could or would wear your normal hair. I've seen awesome dread wraps and ponies. What you imagine, you can do.

16. I Have To Have All Of My Hair In Dreads
Wrong again! I know women who can't or won't rock the full dreadlock style due to work, social stuff, and I could go on and on... but there are plenty of women who have one or two dreads at the nape of their neck (they can hide them easily when worn down, or tuck them under normal hair when up: kind of like hair extensions) so that they too can experience having dreadlocks, reminding them of their more naturalistic or primal side, and hell, just to have them... and you know what? Those are some of the coolest people I know. It's not a requirement for you to have nothing but dreads; no one said, "You must dread ALL your hair." No, I know people with one, two, five, and 8, all interspersed throughout the hair, and it's an awesome look. I kind of wish I had done it that way, but I didn't understand that I could just have one or two at the time... I thought it was an "all or nothing" thing. It's definitely NOT an "all or nothing" thing when it comes to dreads. Fair warning, when you have only one or two they will try and consume the loose, non-dreaded hair around them.

17. Dreads Get Caught On Stuff
Yeah, they do. Earring, bracelet clasps, necklace chains, plants, each other, and random objects. Immature dreads are much like velcro, and it's just a part of dread life. Just untangle yourself and move on. If you get your wrist tangled in your dreads because of your bracelet, just ask a friend for help or go stare in a mirror, don't yank it out. Really this is a phase too, more mature dreads are less prone to catch on things because they become like soft cotton rope.

18. Dreads Are Permanent
Not at all. "What? I'll have to cut them off! I can't comb them out!" Calm down you nervous nelly. Sure you can comb them out - it just takes a lot of patience, a lot of time, and a lot of conditioner - but it IS possible because I, and many many others, have done it. If you're a guy, it's not so much of a big deal unless you love your long hair, but this is a big one for the ladies. A lot of women won't or don't get dreads because they believe dreads are permanent. Dreads are not permanent, just like anything else with hair (with the exception of cutting it off or bubble gum snips) it can be undone.

19. Dreadlocks Mean You're A Hippie
Why, thank you! But that's just me. Dreads do not a hippie make. Often times dreads are spiritual, cultural, or deeply intimate with personal meaning to the person. A lot of people do dreads to get back in touch with their animal side, their natural side, their warrior side, or their 'just because' side. A lot of people from biblical times had dreads; remember Samson? He had 7 locks of hair. Samson had dreads, and I like to think that maybe Jesus Christ did too. It was the accepted way of wearing hair back then, if you wanna go further back King Tut had dreads that are still intact to this day! Even if you have one or many, having dreads does not make you a hippie. Rest easy.

20. Dreadlocks Are Frustrating
Yes. And no. They're only as frustrating as you make them. If you obsess over them, then they become frustrating. If you just "let it be" and go with the flow, they are very easily manageable, comfortable, and natural. If you fret a lot over your dreads, you have fretlocks, not dreadlocks. If you fuss over them, you have fusslocks.

 Your True Self

Yes, I could make a joke about dreading your hair and that's why they're called dreadlocks, and it's funny, because it is kind of a love/hate/love relationship, but I assure you the use of 'dread' means: "to inspire awe" as well as "a great fear." Although wearing dreadlocks is as old as humanity itself, the use of the word "dread" before "lock" was credited to the Rastafarian culture (and other cultures as well) in that: wearing dreads with pride of their natural selves (symbolized by hair growing eternally from the mind and soul) and the inspiration of a sublime spirituality and respect for one's true self with the dread some may feel when confronted with the true natural self.

Update: It's been brought to my attention that one thing I didn't address was the dreaded shrinkage! (Thank you Arrogant7!) So let's add to this list.

21. Shrinkage and Lost Length
Shrinkage is very normal, and yes, by varying degrees ranging from one inch to several! Believe it or not it takes anywhere from one to three years for dreads to achieve full maturity, depending on hair type, texture, care, etc. If you're currently experiencing shrinkage don't freak out and start fretting about your locks (they already have the word "dread" in them) - right now your dreadlocks are just knotting and tightening inside the core of the dread (what we can't see) so it seems as if nothing is happening! (Sort of like when a plant doesn't put off any new growth you can bet it's working in its root structure, just because we can't see it doesn't mean something isn't happening.)  Don't turn your dreadlocks into "fretlocks." I started fussing over mine when I lost about 5 inches in between months 7 and 11; the good news is they're starting to lengthen back out. Consider it a lesson in patience. You'll get your length back, you may not get all of it back, but you'll get most of it back. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait. Remember that dreads also serve the purpose of teaching us different lessons. Besides, hair continually grows so really it's just a matter of "when" and not "if;" they won't stay shrunken forever. Have faith. <3

Update: It's been almost two years since I've had my dreads and I've thought of another little unknown thing pertaining to parts and bald spots. Let's add to the list again.

22. Wicked Scary Parts
Most dreadheads I know encounter this phenomenon. You know how undreaded hair has a natural part somewhere up top on the crown of the head? Well, you can't fight nature on this part... pun slightly intended. The fact is we all have a natural part... and dreads, no matter where they may be, tend to follow the path of least resistance, i.e. the natural part. Well, if you're like me and have a cowlick at the back of your head, the part there can look awful funny... and noticeable. Like, I think the Google satellites can probably see my part from space. I have "part paranoia" and when my hair is down I feel like there's a Grand Flesh Canyon visible to all who look. This is simply just not the case. It's only noticable to you and if someone does notice your part, they're probably too entranced by your dreads to take stock of a tiny pink line running slightly crooked down the back of your head. Chill. Your part may be scary but an easy solution is to just lay a few surrounding locks on top of the part if you're really so concerned (like me).

 23. "Bald Spots"
The wicked scary part is nothing compared with this irrational concern, so it's the perfect segue into the second part of this mountain which is only a molehill to others: "bald spots." We all have a favorite sleeping position, and we all have an insane position in the deepest sleep that we're not even aware of... but our dreadlocks are. Since dreads follow the path of least resistance, it's safe to say that if you sleep or lay for prolonged periods of time on the same area of your head, then your dreads are going to flatten and spread away from that spot (cowlicks are a great example of where this can happen). You may notice that your head lacks about a palm-sized area of scalp that doesn't have dreads layered over it. Whaaaat?! Yes. It's normal. In your mind's eye all you can see is a literal "bald spot" where there is no hair and you may be soon rocking that friar's hair-do. Not to worry. Your scalp isn't actually visible. Don't believe me? Go take a mirror and stand with your back to another mirror and check out your head... there's hair there, just maybe not dreads. No, you're not going bald, it's just the area of your scalp that dreads don't hang out. You can remedy this frightful situation by layering dreads over the blank area or you can just (let's say it together): "let it be."

UPDATE 06/13/2014
24. Baby Dreads: "They Don't Look Good."
So, if you don't know I'll fill you in: I do install dreads for people on the side because I want to share the joy that we call "dreadlocks." I just spent last Sunday afternoon installing dreadlocks for a new client. Her hair type was exactly like mine: fine, straight on top then wavy at the ends, and not a whole lot of volume; she even knew she wanted to install them using the "rip and tear" method (sounds horrible but is actually the gentlest and most natural way to start dreads, in my opinion). She was ecstatic when we were finished 4 to 5 hours later with a full set of new baby dreads and was just over the moon about finally having them (she's wanted them since she was a teenager). I let a few days pass and then decided to ask her how she was enjoying her new locks. Her response was something along the lines of  'I had to take them out, they looked horrible, they were coming undone and [everyone] was saying how terrible they looked [...] so I took them out.' I had to reread that text about 3 times before I absorbed it. Wait... you WHAT? Holy tarnation, she took them out. Let me explain something about baby dreadlocks... they take time to mature. Did you run before you learned how to crawl? No (unless you're some weird mutant). Dreads have to grow up, too. Baby dreadedlocks always, almost always, look terrible... especially in their first few weeks.  
Mistake #1: Don't listen to other people. Solution: It's YOUR hair, do what you want with it. Do you really care what other people think? (If you do then dreadlocks may not be the hairstyle of choice for you and I urge you to seriously reconsider your decision.) If you're like I am and don't give one hoot and a holler what other people think, then plunge right in. Don't let other's opinions sway how you think about your hair... it's what YOU want, what YOU decide, it's YOUR hair.  
Mistake #2: Taking them out. Solution: Tell your Dread Technician that you're concerned about your locks and would like some advice. If my aforementioned client had texted or called me and said, 'Hey, I'm kind of worried, my dreadlocks look funny," I would have immediately had her come over or go to where she was - tools in hand - and assuage her fears. Now, she's wasted time and wasted money. What's worse is she never even gave them a chance. 
Conclusion: Baby dreadlocks look like hell run over when they're in their first few moments of life... it's a phase. Everyone goes through it and it's completely normal. My hair looked terrible after I first installed my dreads. It's taken two years for them to finally start acting halfway right. Heck, it only took a few months for them to look like actual dreads instead of fine wisps of loosely matted hair with fuzzies everywhere; I seriously think I looked like those weird long-haired chihuahuas that get mange. It's no cakewalk but it is worth it in the end; you just have to push through and... LET IT BE. If you're frustrated, I feel you. I get it. It's discouraging. Especially when your closest friends are like, 'Hey, your hair kinda looks like crap.' Ouch. Thanks friend. Remind yourself why you decided you wanted dreads, focus on it, (I mean really soul search), now ask yourself a very hard question: Is it still worth it? If your answer is yes then hold tight to that thought and wear it like armor. If not: reconsider. The "Baby Dread Phase" is just that...only a phase and it will pass. Have faith, my friends.

Update 11/25/14: It's been brought to my attention that one thing I didn't address was how to comb out dreadlocks! (Thank you Danielle!) So let's once more add to this list.

25. You CAN Comb Dreadlocks Out.
This is completely true for most people with locks. Now some hair textures or salon treated locks may not comb out at all, but for most people the option of combing them out is completely viable. There's some kind of strange stigma in the "normal hair" folk's world and I've heard it at least 642 times, "What happens when you don't want them anymore? Do you have to shave your head?" Let me be the one to say ABSOLUTELY NOT! This is simply not true. You CAN comb them out. I had a huge dread on the crown of my head that, in retrospect, should have been two instead... there was just way too much hair, it was too fat and subsequently heavy, and it constantly fell in front of my face anytime I looked down. I almost cut the entire thing off just out of sheer frustration. Ha ha, "shear frustration", get it? Sheer. Shear. (I love homonyms.) But I digress! I did not cut off my "Big Fatty" dreadlock, I instead went about uncombing it... because no one ever said I couldn't at least try. It took a really heavy duty metal comb, about two tons of patience, and at least 500lbs of determination. I started at the tail (the paintbrush tip) of Big Fatty and started by inserting one tooth of the comb about 2mm into the dread and gently pulling the hair out of the dreadlock. It turned out to be easier if I started splitting the dreadlock with my fingertips and then pulling with the comb in small sections. As I would loosen more hair I would brush out the end and then start back where the knots resumed. It was like I was unraveling my dreadlock rather than uncombing it. Slowly but surely I started getting higher and higher up into the dreadlock until I finally reached my scalp and could comb that section out. Now it was frizzy as all get out and it looked kind of like a lion's mane, but it was undreaded hair! Prepare for a shocker. Remember I mentioned that all the hair you would normally lose on a daily basis gets caught up in your dreadlocks, which is why they thicken up? Well, guess what happened. I pulled out a humongous amount of already shed hair that was just "stuck" in my dreadlock; I mean it was at least two very large handfuls. Don't fret, don't stress, it's just like having baby dreads all over again. If your hair is really stubborn, and I mean REALLY stubborn, try a lubricant like coconut oil, argan oil, or even olive oil, to allow the hair to slide over itself easier. It took me about 2-3 hours to comb out Big Fatty, so if you're undoing your whole head, depending on the number of dreads you have, look at spending about a week or more to get them all out. But hey, it beats the alternative right? Remember: Metal comb, patience, determination, and oil. After your dreads are combed out just wash your hair and treat it as normal; you'll have frizzy hair for a few days up to a little over a week, but your hair WILL return to normal. Caution: if your dreadlocks have been chemically treated by anything such as hair dye, bleach, or any other harsh chemicals, you may encounter a lot more breakage and so I encourage gentleness when pursuing this action.


 Until Next Time,
<3 Shade

My Etsy Shop (Wings and Things by D&D Studios) is full of Handmade Dreadlock Beads and Cuffs! Made by a Dreadie for Dreadies. <3

See My Other Blog Posts About Dreadlocks:
  • 20 Little Unknown Things About Having Dreadlocks