|As I watched Johnny Depp change from a self-assured vivacious man, ever timeless in his inner and outer beauty, to a word-slurring, stuttering, blank-eyed, jumble of nerves, I knew that I had to have been looking in a mirror from my past.|
This entire Johnny Depp/Amber Heard debacle has, I've realized over the days, triggered me back to a hideously abusive relationship I thought I'd recovered from years ago. I am now nursing re-opened wounds I only just became conscious were there. This was not merely triggered from the horrible pictures of Amber's bruised face and the abuse allegations against Johnny. I have been unconsciously re-living the horrors I experienced from my own experience as the abused one, in a relationship long dissolved over twenty years ago. It seems insane that any of those memories would haunt me the way they do now, twenty years later. Especially given the amount of time I'd spent processing and healing from that traumatic time. When I finally left my abuser and got my life in some semblance of order again, it took a total of seven years before I stopped seeing those beetle-black scrutinizing eyes of his, in my head. Therapy and close friends as well as family, also helped me re-form my identity and come back to life, so to speak.
Then...Johnny Depp and Amber Heard made headlines as their relationship went from whirlwind romance to marriage, then rumors, then dog drama and finally divorce. As I followed their news, slowly all the dread, confusion and self-loathing I'd felt under my own perpetrator's spell reared its ugly head yet again. As I watched Johnny Depp change from a self-assured vivacious man ever timeless in his inner and outer beauty, to a word-slurring, stuttering, blank-eyed, jumble of nerves, I knew that I had to have been looking in a mirror from my past. And the reflection was not pretty.
I wish I had pictures of my own mental and eventually physical change over the course of those four years with that abusive, sick man I'd once believed could do no wrong. From the time I'd begun living with Michael(not his real name) in the early 90's, to when I left him four years later, I had become almost a zombie.. Where once I reveled in being alive and doing what I loved, while out and about socializing with amazing friends...I became more and more isolated as my confidence waned. In time, my mind became more and more muddled. Not surprisingly, the turmoil within affected my body as well as my mind. I became more and more fatigued, and slept more than I used to. I simply stopped caring, about anything, and when I absolutely had to go outside, all I could wear was what fit me, if anything.. Like Johnny, I never put too much stock in what was "fashionable" regarding clothes, jewelry or other accessories. I never played on my "pretty face." I had my own style that I refused to explain or defend, and I spoke honestly about my views on the world around me. Inevitably, my inability to say anything other than my own personal truth and nothing but, drew more people to me than if I'd tried to fit in to somebody else's trendy "round hole." I felt an innate sense of freedom, and great joy to simply be alive.
When Michael came into the picture, I alienated all my friends, one by one. Inside I was slowly dying. Ironically, this is exactly the way Johnny Depp described the parents of those brave children with cancer for whom he'd surprise by showing up at hospitals as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Watching Johnny and Amber over the years made me aware that I was definitely looking at a relationship fraught with abuse. I know what abuse looks like. How would I not? I've been there. I would know the signs as clear as day, having looked in the mirror every morning and seen the frightening change in myself during those toxic four years.
Amber cited Johnny as an emotional and mental abuser as well as a physical one. Almost always, those suffering from mental and emotional abuse, even if it's not physical, begin to show it. First, their eyes become glazed over like that of a hostage in a war camp. Then, eventually their speech becomes stilted as he or she struggles to say EXACTLY what they mean, or perhaps have been pushed to believe they mean. Their body language changes, and finally, in some cases, their bodies change altogether. Johnny Depp had never, in his whole career spoken as slowly, as he does now, sometimes agitated and stuttering as he's trying to find whatever word he's looking for in interviews, talks, what-have-you. Not until he'd spent a considerable amount of time as Amber's husband that is. Before her, Depp had never gone to important public appearances, particularly those where he had to present an award, visibly drunk or intoxicated. He'd always spoken clearly and with conviction, at a normal, rapid pace. He was aware of his surroundings everywhere he went. Yes...even his time with Kate Moss, when his drug abuse became headline news along with his temper, he always seemed to know exactly what he was saying, and where he was headed. While the Kate Moss days might have had its share of intense drama, there was never the kind of confusion Johnny once joked about wanting to stay in a state of, as there truly was later with Amber. Certainly, Johnny had never mentioned having narcolepsy before. Falling asleep for moments at a time, deep sleep? I remember seeing the movie "My Own Private Idaho" which ironically starred River Phoenix, who, as we know, came to a tragic end outside of Johnny Depp's Viper Room in 1993. Phoenix's character in "Idaho" had narcolepsy. The result of that would be him literally falling to the ground as he thumbed a ride on the highway, deep uncontrollable sleep overtaking him. While the sleep lasted no more than five minutes usually, almost always, the boy would wake up with serious fear and disorientation on his face, only to realize he'd fallen asleep in a dangerous area. It was chilling to watch River Phoenix bring such a helpless kid to life as only an amazing actor like him could. It's a frightening thing that I can't imagine is easy to manage. How did Johnny develop that?
My relationship with Michael, the first man I ever had a serious relationship with(see my first blog post about my bisexuality), was nothing like I had ever experienced before. Even my first serious relationship with an actively alcohol-addicted woman who also emotionally abused me, never compared to this. Michael used manipulative, mind controlling techniques that seriously messed with my head, to a point where I thoroughly believed that he was the only one who not only knew what was best for me, but that I'd never do any better than him. Everyone else in my life, Michael insisted, had only been "playing" with me for fun because I was this "crazy lady" they saw as a novelty and hilarious conversation piece. Yes, even my own family supposedly played this game with me. Deep down, what they"really" thought of me was not pleasant at all. Michael literally had me believing that everybody in my life, family included, would smile in my face and then go behind my back and laugh about how "delusional" and "stupid" I was. Not that Michael ever was physically present for those apparent conversations but he always said he SAW it happening--with a "sixth sense" of sorts. Yes, Michael proclaimed himself a psychic, a thing that of course puts a black mark on anyone who even talks about psychics, let alone calls themselves one. But that's another ball of yarn altogether.
Bottom line, according to Michael...no one had ever truly loved me. Not my family, not my friends, no one. Not until HE had come along!
Michael quickly became what I considered to be a spiritual mentor. I did need, and felt I was ready for, some focus and guidance to help me expand on the life I was carving out for myself. Raised an athiest, I never had believed in anything spiritual, but when Michael came along, I really felt I was ready to learn what it was about. It turned out I really loved the path Michael was showing me, and I felt like I'd come home to a place that had only been a stone's throw away from me. It was an incredibly powerful experience, so I thought at the time.
Shortly after Michael became my mentor, however,, he became my boyfriend. This was where all the trouble started. The problem with mentorship of any kind, it never mixes with romance, as I found out the hard way. Relationships are always most successful when the partners work together equally. Obviously most of us know that even if a percentage of us don't. Anyway, when I became romantically involved with Michael, I still looked to him for guidance. By then, Michael had put me on a pedestal as being "ready," to be with him as an equal partner, my having "evolved" faster than he ever thought I would. His stalwart pride in me, and his gentle love and passion for me made me feel on top of the world.
However, Michael became disappointed very quickly when he realized I was still, after all, human, and prone to emotions that sometimes got in the way of his training of higher-level thinking. This would send him into rages. Instead of being compassionate and helping me through whatever roadblock was holding me back--even though I was willing to be helped--he was furious that I even HAD the roadblocks. How could I allow myself to "wallow" in emotion that only temporarily took me out of what he thought was such a spiritually secure place? How DARE I become "lazy" like that, he would shout?
Even Jesus had doubts as a human, as we know, when He cried, "Take this Cup from my Lips!" Even knowing this, many spiritualists still preach constant "Higher-Mind" thinking, positive thoughts, peace and love. No anger, no sadness, no questioning anything. Just all-out acceptance of "what is," at all times.
"What is," in Michael's case(and mine, if I'd known better), should have included no romance between student and teacher. Always, in a romantic relationship, issues come out, old baggage that any healthy partner would share with you and help you through. We all, in relationships, must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. When that includes sometimes unpleasant emotions, it only harms the relationship if such feelings are not addressed directly, with love. The honest journey through whatever past hurts might arise and coming out with a fresher perspective, only serves to strengthen a healthy relationship, not weaken it.
For me, it was just devastating when I felt I'd finally found a life path I needed and loved, only to have my beloved teacher in that path become vicious when I dared to doubt myself or feel something other than "positive" emotions. Michael, instead of understanding and giving me loving compassion while I processed the feeling, merely shamed me for it. Whenever any fear, sadness or anger caused me to "lose my way," I would always have to convince Michael that it was only temporary. Once I processed it, I'd beg him to understand,, I would definitely be able to get back on track. Michael just wouldn't hear it, however. I had to be strong at all times, positive through and through. "You should be over your negativity and confusion by now!" he'd shout. Never mind that I was only human, and no matter how far I'd come with overcoming hurts from my past, there was still uncertainty at times. After all, I had only just embraced something brand new that I wasn't fully used to yet. . So I would lose my perspective sometimes. It happens to the best of us, I'd shout at Michael. It did not have to hinder our relationship...sometimes these spells of mine only lasted five minutes! Any relationship built on full authenticity and love should be able to withstand that!
It was clear that Michael's and my relationship did NOT have any real, unconditional love, or acceptance of honest humanity. I learned that all too quickly, although I still tried to make it work, for the next four years.
One of the worst things Michael would do was literally "excommunicate" me from the spiritual path I was trying to master. He'd speak powerful words to the effect that I had "disgraced all that is Divine," when I would say or do one too many things that disagreed with him. It didn't just pertain to the spiritual path however, now that romance was involved and we lived together. It pertained to just about everything I did, everything I WAS. I'd end up begging forgiveness and, figuratively speaking, "prostrating" myself before Michael, as if his forgiveness and word would put me back in favor with the Divine Force I so desperately needed to "please."
This is just one example of what abusers can use as a "weapon" to bash you emotionally and/or physically. When that weapon is in the form of something you love and value almost above yourself, it becomes all the more damaging.
Despite his "elevated mind," Michael was as human as I was but he never acknowledged it. He was a raging alcoholic and so was I, and my temper tended to get worse when I drank. Michael was determined to stamp my "demonic temper" out of me so that I wouldn't verbally abuse him, ever. No one should verbally abuse anyone, of course...that's a given. However, even while I did learn how to put my words in order, stating only what bothered me, not pointing fingers or cursing Michael out? Eventually everything I even said, never mind how I said it, was thoroughly invalidated. No matter what, Michael was always right. I learned quickly not to ever question Michael, for when I did, he would again "condemn" me as a dark soul, hopeless to teach a spiritual path to, let alone love or value as a human being.
I became a shell of my former self very quickly. My aspirations of becoming a working rock singer and guitarist, either in a band or solo, petered out completely. Before I met Michael, I was just beginning to make a name for myself, however small, at a popular bar in Philadelphia. I would play their weekly open-mic nights, and be applauded vigorously by the staff and customers. It got to a point where eventually I got requests for their "favorites." It made me feel good, like I had a future ahead of me. I was still in my twenties. I should have a chance, thought I! I never cared if I made millions of dollars and I certainly didn't want people "worshipping" me. But I did want to play my songs out, have them be heard, and see what kind of difference I could make in this world through music. Bruce Springsteen and other amazing songwriters like him, had inspired me, and I wanted to give something back, if I could. That very bar was where I met Michael, who came back after one of my performances and told me I had touched him with my words, voice and music. This led to a conversation about our lives and what we were most passionate about...and the rest was history. Michael was a talented musician specializing in keyboards, singing and writing songs, and when I heard what he could do after he handed me a tape, I was determined to start a band, or at least a duo act, with him.
By the time the romance started and I moved in with Michael, it became clear that I was definitely not going to collaborate musically with him beyond the four walls we would practice in. Michael did not want a music career, and he looked down his nose at those who did, calling them "fame and money whores," or words to that effect. , He strongly advised me to let go of the "obsession," as he called it, for fame. He ,himself, was perfectly happy to keep his songs locked up in his home, giving them only to the Divine. Who needed fame, let alone money? It was overrated, Michael insisted. I listened to him,of course. When I made the dreadful decision not to pursue music as a job ever again, I automatically shut down on any feelings of regret that would arise. I did really miss communicating with the people and the audience and loved discussing music with all of them after the show. A little of me died after I stopped playing the open-mic night slots. I did play a lot of music in the house with Michael, writing songs with him that were pretty good, I thought, but my passion for music and creating it, let alone playing and singing it, had all but died. It was, instead, replaced by a robotic need to be "regular" and simply make my money as a waitress or a cashier somewhere, for the rest of my life, while keeping my music in a closet.
One time, I got a phone call from a woman whose band I'd once auditioned for. Her band became very prominent in Philadelphia, featured in the City Paper often, playing gigs at well-known clubs, even opening for famous acts! Well, she called me and wanted to work on music with me and I turned her down. Why? I knew Michael wouldn't like it. He'd started to criticize my music by then, when we would play together. He verbally bashed my singing and guitar playing abilities, and especially hated my songs. What he'd once praised to the hilt when he first met me, he then trampled in the dirt until it became non-existent.
I stopped playing guitar and singing. I certainly would not play music with Michael. Instead, To calm the circus in my mind, I took to writing, and would hide out in a room I'd made just for me. There, I type out my books or thoughts on a word processor I'd bought with money I'd won gambling when we went to Atlantic City. Michael became incensed by my "withdrawal," and shamed me for not playing music anymore. He bitterly complained when I wasn't spending "enough time" with him. When the physical attack finally happened, Michael was in the middle of a particularly pontificating speech, every carefully enunciated word of his, as usual, smashing my whole existence into pieces.
Something in me finally snapped.
I had to shut Michael up, but I wasn't going to hit him, not by a long shot. It was never my way to hit first, and, certainly, never in a romantic relationship! In my desperation, I did the only thing I could think of, that would at least distract Michael out of his relentless tirade. I picked up an almost full can of beer that I'd begun drinking, and poured it directly over Michael's head.
No, it certainly wasn't a nice thing to do, but at least it wasn't physical violence like hitting or punching someone, I reasoned. I figured that Michael would stop preaching and immediately scold me for such an immature action. I also thought he'd probably laugh, even while putting me down for acting like such a child.
The response I got, however, shocked me to no end. Michael slapped my face, and hard.
Stunned, I went into self-defense mode and slapped him back, as is my way when struck first. We slapped each other back and forth for a few seconds before I finally turned to leave. Michael promptly threw me up against the wall hurting my back and shoulders, as well as my head, the back of which had hit the wall hard. When I fought to get away, he held me pinioned. He slapped me again, harder than before, when I told him to let me go. I yelled at him for slapping me, and he just laughed in my face.
Then, he proceeded to go into another speech about how pouring beer over someone's head is just as much physical abuse as hitting someone. I vehemently denied that, saying that no, my "christening" Michael with beer(by the way, that's great for your hair!) did not remotely compare to me being slapped, then thrown and restrained against the wall We argued back and forth verbally, between slaps to my face, my arms being restrained from hitting back. When I finally called Michael a "son of a b----," my anger having taken me to a place of not caring about verbal abuse? He slapped me so hard, my head hit the wall again, and I really thought I was going to pass out. Then, Michael proceeded to bite me on the arm. He told me not to DARE insult his mother. This resulted in me once again, trying to get away, but always, I was thrown back onto the wall. I could not escape him.
Finally, I had no choice but to apologize to Michael and admit he was right about not only the beer, but what he was lecturing me about that had angered me so much. We went on with the rest of the night, and Michael later joked that those "love taps" didn't hurt me.
Why did I stay after that? I was appalled at myself, but I stayed for about one or two more months. Finally, after one of my favorite cousins, Chris, died at 34 years old of cancer, I couldn't take it anymore. Being at Chris's memorial and seeing how many wonderful friends he had...and hearing about what a passionate, full life he'd lived, made me realize how I had wasted my own life for far too long. I moved out of Michael's house in 1996 and temporarily stayed with my parents, before, once again, carving out a new life, difficult as it was. However, a new FREEDOM had come over me. When I left Michael, I never looked back. Passion, revived joy and a new motivation had returned to me, after too many years, four, of living a life devoid of any hope whatsoever.
Now, as I look at Johnny Depp in the photos onstage with Hollywood Vampires, I see a new resurgence in his eyes and face that was not there when still with Amber. I see life returning, passion being reawakened. the same way that it did with me. I see Johnny Depp finally freed from a turbulent and soul-stealing situation, and fully embracing that freedom. While Amber may have been Johnny's "Michael," obviously I don't know the details of their relationship. However, looking at Amber then and now,, even with her "bruised face," and declaration of Johnny's multifaceted abuse, all I remember is how strong, beautiful and vibrant she always looked in those pictures with Johnny. He, on the other hand...well, you saw him. You know.
Those of you who have been abused, really fully abused...you know what it looks like.
We need to at least consider that before Johnny Depp's name becomes completely "taboo" in Hollywood, at least in the worst case scenario. Wait for the trial. Just wait for that sit-down interview he's reported to give when he is finished touring with Hollywood Vampires.
|We will know then which one of them was my "Michael." And...karma will take care of whatever it has to take care of. As will the law.|
I thank you for reading, and wish you all freedom, passion and epic joy in whatever your life paths might be.