Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness - Suzy Favor Hamilton (2015)

Chapter 21. EXPOSURE

Mark and I eventually became fairly certain we knew who had tipped off the Smoking Gun: a regular who’d become angry with me when I’d canceled several appointments with him, his disappointment and hurt feelings turning to a desire for revenge. While there was some satisfaction in knowing the truth, it didn’t change the fact that I was going to be publicly outed, or that we wouldn’t know when it was happening until the article was published. Mark had already taken all the steps he could think of to minimize the impact on our daughter and on our business. But we still had to face one of the hardest experiences of all. Mark called his dad.

“We have to tell you something,” Mark said, his voice trembling. “I need you to support Suzy, regardless of what I’m going to say to you.”

Even as Mark explained as much as he knew and made it clear that this was no practical joke, they couldn’t believe what we were telling them. As it began to sink in, they were consumed by shock and anger.

“What the hell was she thinking?” Mark’s dad asked. “How could this possibly happen?”

“I know,” Mark said, tears in his eyes. “We’re so, so sorry. I thought it might never come out, so I was covering and hoping for the best, but I’m convinced it’s going to happen soon.”

My parents took it much harder. They lived in a small town, where everybody knew everybody’s business as it was, and they would never be able to escape the humiliation I caused them, which is something I regret to this day. Plus, they still lived in Wisconsin, where I was well known, and they were very aware how much this story would impact the area. It would be front-page news. And they were as concerned about their image, and our family’s image, as they’d always been. Plus, in many ways, I was still their perfect little girl.

“That is not you,” my dad said.

“I know, Dad,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“We’re going to bed soon,” he said. “I’ll tell your mom in the morning. I don’t want her worrying about this tonight. Where are you? Are you safe? Is Mark with you?”

“Yes, Dad,” I said.

Still certain he knew what was best for me, he told me in no uncertain terms that I should dye my hair, change my name, take Kylie out of school, and move to another country. Without responding, I hung up the phone, realizing that they weren’t going to be any help at all. All of this was going to be hard enough on Kylie as it was, and Mark and I didn’t want to uproot her life on top of everything else. Mark wanted to try to keep things as normal as possible for her. I could see him really stepping up, and I was so grateful to him for it.

Two weeks later, on December 20, we were staying at the guesthouse at Mark’s parents’ house, getting ready for Christmas. I woke up early and did my normal morning routine, going for a run down the hill from their house and along the Pacific Coast Highway to the Starbucks where I liked to get a cup of tea and a blueberry scone. I was standing in line to place my order when my phone started buzzing. It was Mark. “You’d better get home right now,” he said.

“Why?” I asked, still lingering in the innocent place.

“The story just broke,” he said.

As we were talking, the man in front of me looked up from his smartphone, then down at whatever he was reading, and then up at me again, with an amused expression on his face.

I turned and walked out without getting anything and ran the three miles back to my in-laws’ house as quickly as I could. I was completely numb for the rest of the day, barely aware of what was happening on the periphery of my attention, where Mark was doing his best to sort through the hundreds of e-mails that were pouring into our joint account, including interview requests from everyone from CNN to Dr. Phil and a meeting opportunity with the porn company Vivid, as well as an incredible amount of hate mail, deleting the most hurtful notes before I could read them. He didn’t always succeed, though, and I stumbled upon messages that said I was a slut and whore, that I was going to hell, that I should kill myself like my brother had. Meanwhile, in the main house, my mother-in-law obsessively watched hours of coverage on Fox and CNN, where topless images of me in sexy poses were being shown again and again and again. I remained bizarrely calm.

When I woke up the next morning, the calm was gone. The darkest thoughts possible ran through my mind on a continual loop: I was a whore. I had shamed my parents, my husband, our family, my entire state. It would be better for everyone if I were dead. I didn’t say any of this out loud to Mark, but I think he could tell. I kept sneaking off to read the nasty e-mails on my phone. Finally, he came up behind me, smiling as well as he could.

“Hiking?” he said. “I think we need to get out.”

Leaving Kylie with his parents, we climbed into the car and drove down the hill toward our usual hiking spot, twenty-five miles away, at Sycamore Canyon. It was another perfect Southern California day, the sunshine glinting off the blue waves of the Pacific Ocean, but none of it could reach me or lighten my mood. Mark said something that set me off, and I went ballistic. My hypersensitivity was at an all-time high. My entire world was caving in. I wanted someone to blame. As far as I was concerned, he was the real problem. He was trying to control me and force me to stop escorting, which I didn’t want to do. He had driven me to this point, and I hated him. As we screamed at each other for the next fifteen minutes, he turned the car around, since hiking was clearly out of the question. I wanted to get away from him, and I pulled myself farther and farther away, toward the other side of the car, but I couldn’t put enough distance between us. I wanted this nightmare to end. I wanted to stop everything. I choked on the tears pouring down my face, great sobs shaking my body, nothing inside me but pain. My mind was spinning with a single thought: end it all, end it all, end it all.

A vision came into my mind: I saw myself opening the car door and hitting the asphalt as the car behind us slammed into my body, flipping me over and over, my arms and legs flailing. It could all be over in a second. All I had to do was release the door handle and just fall out. Please let me die. I leaned away even farther from Mark, pressing my head against the window, and reached for the handle. I could no longer hear the sound of Mark’s voice. I just wanted out. Mark turned to look at me and, seeing what I was doing, slammed the brakes. I flew into the dashboard, the force of the impact bringing me back to the present moment.

“What the fuck?” he yelled.

All I could do was let my head fall into my hands and keep crying. Mark pulled the car over onto the side of the road.

“Should I take you to the hospital?” he said, sounding dazed and confused. “Where do I take you?”

In January, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.