In March of 2017 my life fell apart and I hit rock bottom. My husband, the man I dedicated the last 8 years of my life to, ended our marriage and kicked me out of the house that we had both worked hard for the last three years to obtain. This was less than a week after he convinced me to sign an inter-spousal deed transfer by telling me it was the only way we would get the house, and swearing he would never make me homeless. However this wasn’t his true intentions and in less than a week after I moved all his belongings into the home for him (he had put all my stuff in the closest out of sight while I was working) he kicked me out.
Now before I continue I want to say that I have struggled with mental illness and substance abuse since I was a teenager and I know this had a lot to do with the way things turned out. However I quit drinking almost 4 years ago and have been sober since the day I said I would, this should have been enough for him and his parents to believe me when I said I was going to quit using as well and wanted to get help to do so. Honestly I blame his family more than I do him, first for not being able to tell when he was lying and second for living in a glass house while throwing boulders at me. Especially his mother who seemed to think all I was after was money. She goes on about how family is the most important thing while pounding 6 beers, but can’t have a 5 minute conversation with her mentally disabled brother. I should have known that when you marry a Drag-Queen they eventually turn into their dragon mother. Then there is his sister who took him down to the courthouse and prompted him to file a completely fabricated restraining order stating I physically assaulted him, that never happened. When I went to court (and $1500 later in lawyers fees) the judge took one look at and threw out. I don’t know whether his sister had him make it up or she just went along with his story but she should have known I would never hit anyone out of anger, especially not the man I loved.
The thing is I’ve been working since I was 16, emancipated and on my own since 17, put myself through college with 3 part-time jobs and graduated with a BS in physics/chemistry. His family seems to have forgotten it it was me who supported their son/brother through cancer when they didn’t even know he was being treated for it, provided for him for years when he moved out of their home and was making very little, encouraged him to quit his job as a server and pursue a career as a bartender and Drag-Queen since it is what made him happy, and put in years of work managing the finances so he could accomplish his dream of owning a home. In less than two years I was able to boost his credit score from being so low I had to co-sign for his car to 740 and able to finance a house. I did this by putting all the debt and bills in my name while putting my income as well as his into a separate account with the understanding that after we got the house we would use the amount we saved monthly in rent to pay down this debt. There are also the numerous times I literally saved his life when he was having a diabetic low and unable to understand he needed to eat, even though he would say absolutely horrible things to me during these times and on more than one occasion was so violent I had to call the EMT’s who had to restrain him (he recently walked out into the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Sacramento and laid down in the midst of rush hour traffic). I never let any of this affect me because it wasn’t ‘him’, it was not anything he could control. I loved him unconditionally because that’s the only way I know how.
I was homeless, living out of my car, and without a place to run my at-home business it went under, and with it my only source of income.
With nowhere to turn I went back to ask my husband for help. His (under his fathers guidance) version of help was to have me committed against my will. He took my clothes, shoes, wallet and keys and abandoned me at the hospital. He then changed his number knowing his was the only one I had memorized. He didn’t even tell my family what was going on. I was there 5 days before I was able to get in contact with my mother who convinced the hospital to release me to a transitional living space for people with nowhere else to go.
I was devastated. I couldn’t understand how I was discarded so easily and how he could use my biggest fear against me like that. In the end it doesn’t matter if this was just my perspective or not, when I needed and asked for help these people who were supposed to be my family put me on the streets, kicked me while I was down, and it broke me. I felt like trash. I believed I was trash. I lost my will to live and tried to end my life.
However the help of my mother, the director of the transitional living space, and several friends in Sacramento, I was able to slowly pull myself out of the pit I had been shoved in and left to rot. I leased a car and started driving for ride-sharing apps at night and picked up a job working construction during the day. I alternated between couch surfing at my friends places and sleeping in my car at rest stops.
But after a month of working both jobs, completely clean/sober as well, things didn’t get any better. It was clear I had been used by my ex to get his house and he had no intention of ever paying for his half of the debt, and I was never going to be able to get out from under it alone. I started to lose the fight against the darkness again. I felt lost, alone, and without a purpose.
But this time instead of turning to alcohol or drugs I decided to try something different. I turned my phone off, bought $500 worth of backpacking gear and starting driving down the coast. I drove through places I have great memories of when I was a kid: Oceanside, San Onofre, Big Bear were a few. Somehow I ended up at Joshua Tree National Park. I grabbed my gear and just started walking into the desert with no real direction or goal in mind.
It’s hard to explain how, but that night while looking at the stars I found the silver lining in this breakup: I was free. I had no obligations, no commitments, I could do anything I wanted with my life now without having to worry about how it would affect another person like I had for the last 8 years. I spent the next 3 weeks traveling to several of the other National Parks in CA: Pinnacles, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.
It was when I reached Kings Canyon that things began to change for me, I drove from Sequoia National Forest to the end of the canyon and back 3 times before deciding on a campsite. I hiked out ~2 miles to the end of a cliff face and when I reached the edge there was a make-shift camp already in place complete with a fire-ring of rocks, collected wood and even a cleared area for a tent. It was like it had been made for me and awaiting my arrival. It was at that moment I knew how I was going to fight my darkness, or at least keep it at bay long enough for me to find a way to beat it for good.
When I got back to Sacramento and driving for Lyft again I began telling my story to my riders and listening to theirs. The amount of support and compassion from complete strangers was overwhelming. Numerous riders encouraged me to put my story online and asked if I would be documenting the trip in any way. I had not thought about doing any form of blogging or documenting since I don’t really do the social media thing, but after telling my story to a rider that used a wheelchair he explained that prior to his stroke he used to go to a different park every summer and that if I were to put up pictures and videos from my hikes and drives he would follow me through every one.
That’s when I realized that this trip was bigger than me, that there were people out there that could relate to my story and had one of their own who might benefit from following me on this trip if I put it up online. So I postponed the departure date of my trip in order to work enough to afford video/photographic gear to document the trip in its entirety and put it online for anyone to follow. If it even helps just 1 person get through something the way the parks have already helped me than it will be worth it.
So this is my journey through the 47 National Parks in the contiguous USA, my list of 47 reasons to live, and belief that I will find the 48th along the way that will sustain me after.
Coming up on one year since I first started this blog I have driven over 65k miles, been to 18 national parks, met over 1500 people, and come to terms with the reason my mind works differently than others. I worked though my rage, let go of my anger, forgave both others and myself leaving only a deep resounding sadness at the loss of two families, my own and the one I married into.
When I read the original paragraphs I posted in my story I can remember feeling betrayed and lied to, the only thing that made sense was that I had been used and thrown away. While I know now this view was was more delusion than reality, it doesn’t change what happened.
The point is that the love my husband and I had was deeper and more real than anything I have ever personally experienced or observed and will be lucky to ever have again. The reality is it was probably just as hard for him to let go as it has been for me. I’ve been told that since he replaced me so quickly that’s evidence he didn’t really care that much to begin with. I don’t think this is the case, I believe the man I fell in love with died the night he left me at the hospital and to him the same towards me. That’s honestly the only way I have come to cope with things.
It was my choice to self medicate with drugs for my mental illness which makes it unfair to blame his family for happened since they were only doing what they felt was needed to protect their son and brother. I hope that both his family and my own can someday forgive me for all the mistakes I made.
I am grateful for having someone there to cut me down when I hung myself because I know now that every day is a gift, and every life is sacred. I know many people won’t understand how I could have so drastically changed my view, but I know there is someone out there reading this who gets it. My hope is that it helps that one person from making the same mistakes, just know you are NOT alone.
Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog and for coming back as I post more.