To a person who has been made to feel isolated, the world is made up of only two kinds of people, Bullies or Allies. Which one are you?
James F Johnson
James F Johnson (born July 1960) is an American Fiction Writer best known for his original novel series, Bullies & Allies, which includes Disaster Island, The Goat Driver and The Puzzled. He is what is known as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) https://hsperson.com and also lives his life diligently managing non-military PTSD.
Most of James’s work is designed to shine a light on the discrete abuse often forced upon HSP teens and adults, leaving them to feel ashamed of who they are. The abuses range from gaslighting, to mob-bullying, to sexual abuse, and are most often perpetrated by family, friends, and peers. In his novel series, his main character, Kyle Rickett, is aggressively bullied at school and at home for being kinder and more sensitive than most people.
We all have our paths to follow. Why do I always follow the sociopath?
James believes that all human beings live their lives somewhere on the scale between fully empathetic and fully sociopathic. Those who live closer to the sociopathic side of life often bully and control those who live more on the kinder, more empathetic end of the scale. In his novels, each character is positioned somewhere on this scale. The plots are driven by how they interact and how they perceive each other as well as how they see themselves during and after the abuse. Just like in real life, traumatic damage isn’t spread through the air like a virus but is transmitted through a demolition derby of lives crashing into each other and leaving behind dents and rubble that in many cases can’t be undone. In real life, sociopaths are everywhere, and they do a lot of harm to empaths. And it seems that once a person has been targeted by a sociopath, some sort of invisible target forms on their heads that attracts other sociopaths. Trauma and abuse often repeat themselves again and again in many HSP lives. Is this because life has lessons for us to learn? Or is it just plain bad luck?
James was born in St. Paul Minnesota. At the time of his birth he had three older siblings aged 13, 11 and 8. His father owned and operated an automotive garage. His mother was a housewife.
When he was nine months old his family moved to the city of Bothell Washington, just outside of Seattle. Two weeks before his third birthday his mother gave birth to a fifth and final child. James’s first cognitive memory is of the day she was brought home as an infant. The two, being so much younger than their older siblings, bonded as if they were twins. These two were the only family members who would forever consider themselves natives of the Pacific Northwest, while feeling as if their elder siblings were more like aunts and an uncle who’d been natives of Minnesota.
Private Grammar School
It’s not what was said to me that did the damage, it’s what was said about me.
James and his young sister were the only two of the five children to attend a Catholic school. James was enrolled into St. Brendan’s in September 1965, the first day the new school opened its doors. His little sister was enrolled three years later. They were each to attend first through eighth grades.
Catholic school began a lifelong nightmare for James. In second grade, he began having memory blackouts during class. At times he could only remember the beginning and the end of any given day.
But his real problems began in the third grade when a new student transferred in half-way through the school year. Within less than a few weeks, James discovered that he was this boy’s best friend.
Looking back on this story now, James can clearly see that this young boy was a narcissistic sociopath, but at the time, he was a hero to young James. Swooping in on a victim is a sociopath’s first trick. He’d only been in class a few weeks when James suddenly realized he was this boy’s best friend in an unexpected friendship that he would later discover came at a high price. The next trick of the sociopath is to establish dominance. The boy was bigger than life and all consuming. Everything this boy did, he did (or convinced James that he did) better than anyone else could do. James felt lucky to be his sidekick.
The next trick of the sociopath is to isolate the victim from all former friends and family. This boy immediately began to isolate James from the other kids. Each day on the playground they’d sneak away to a quiet part of the grounds to talk. The next trick in the sociopath playbook is to completely surround and consume the victim. After hovering over and isolating James during the school day, the boy would call James on the phone and talk for long hours almost every night, which effectively took time away from family and friends in the neighborhood.
This unhealthy relationship went on for two solid years. James’s self-image slowly sank lower and lower. He never saw his separation from the other kids as a problem until the friend began to aim all his conversations onto sex. During the fifth grade, James, at only ten years of age, didn’t want to talk about sex, and didn’t understand it. He had some very deep fears that seemed to reside within his blackouts back in second grade. These were fears that he did not want to explore. The friend persisted, escalating the situation to the point of buying James a ring. James had no way of processing what was happening, so, with his naturally comical personality he minimized the advances as jokes between two boys.
Sudden destruction: James declined the ring which enraged the boy to the breaking point. The next day this boy surprised James with a sucker-punch to the face. Without explanation he labeled James as gay, assigned the nickname “Homo” and spent the remaining four years at St. Brendan’s driving a mob-bully campaign in which nearly all the children and some of the teachers obediently treated James like an outcast. It’s difficult to live with the label of gay in today's schools, but it was even worse in the 1970’s in a religious school, where they rewarded conformity while hatred was allowed to run rampant on anyone who would be labeled as different in any social way. By sixth grade, isolation from the herd had turned James seriously suicidal. During the school day, boys were trying to beat him up on the playground. Kids were steeling his possessions from his desk and small groups of kids were taunting him with gay-themed chants. No one was willing to be seen talking to him. His grades had sunk to straight D’s and F’s. Teachers were unsympathetic, and in many cases rolled their eyes and told him to “just grow up.”
At twelve years of age, as he was working out the final details of his first suicide plan, his health deteriorated to crippling stomach aches. Being unable to sleep or hold down food forced his mother into taking him to the doctor. Being HSP, emotion and physical body are actively interconnected. When one suffers, the other shares the pain. He ended up being pulled out of school for a few weeks and was fed tranquilizers until he was able to sleep through the night and hold down food. Then he was sent back to the abusive school that was causing his problems. Somehow though he was feeling better enough to abandon the suicide plan…for the time being.
Today, even though he's straight, James advocates for gay and lesbian teens because he knows it is not the fact that they are gay that causes their suicide rates to be so high, it’s the way the mobs of evil people treat them that sends them into their trauma. James often says “Mob Bullying is attempted murder and every day, children get away with murder on the playground.”
Adolescent Years at Home
We all need someone on our side. A person who is bullied outside but supported at home has a better chance of survival than a person who is bullied outside and unsupported at home.
Meanwhile at home, James’s life was fraught with secrets. Big secrets. Life or death secrets. His self-image had been decimated at school and no one at home allowed him to fight for himself. He honestly didn’t understand what “homo” meant, and thought it had to do with the fact that he was highly sensitive, quick to smile, kind-hearted and easily hurt. These are noble attributes that the John Wayne fans of the day would bully and mock as “sissy” or “feminine.” So, he internalized his shame, owned the Homo label, and committed to never letting his unsupportive family or neighborhood friends find out about it. These secrets caused stomach-churning stress night and day. He knew that as long as his life outside of school didn't know what he was at school, he might survive childhood. But if anyone from school would ever poison the waters at home, he knew for certain the breach of this secret would end him. This was life or death. He knew now that his next suicide plan would need to not be thwarted by tranquillizers, and if his home life became as abusive as his school life, a successful suicide was his only option. His plan was to lock himself in the family car, start it, and fall asleep forever in the garage. To avoid reaching that point, he kept his Homo nickname secret and also continued to hide from any hints of his second-grade blackouts. He didn’t know why, but he knew he did not want his family asking any questions about the missing time frames. He just wanted the second grade to be removed from memory at any cost.
These kinds of life-altering secrets took a massive toll on James’s internal world. Protecting his home life from his school life was exhausting. Unable to understand or control the real world, he found himself hopelessly lost in his imagination nearly 24x7. While hiding within his imagination he could be someone that deserved and received respect. Out in the real world, things were not so friendly.
The family was a demolition derby
James’s family was unsupportive by nature. From birth to adulthood James was never allowed to play any sports, learn a musical instrument, join any after-school clubs, or participate in any extra-curricular events. He was also not allowed to plan for his future. Any time he announced what he might want to be when he grew up, his family would laugh at him and remind him that he wasn’t smart enough to be anything at all. What friends he had in the neighborhood, some of whom were very close friends to him, were treated as if they were problems. It was as if his family was jealous that he even had friends. James's friends’ parents liked him and always welcomed him into their homes. They often took him on campouts and swimming pools with their own children. But these same friends were never welcome in his own home, nor were any of them ever allowed to go on an outing with the family. His mother often reminded him of everything she did NOT like about each of them...and about their mothers.
Some of the family’s unsupportive behaviors were typical of any Catholic family, and James has often said, “Being raised in a Catholic family was like living every second of my life in a full contact sport. More than anything else, I spent my life protecting myself from my own team’s personal attacks and jealous judgements.”
James and his father: His father, a WWII veteran was unusually strong physically, but was also quiet, emotionally detached, and for some reason often blamed his problems and his unhappiness on James. Mr. Johnson was not a violent man but had a temper the family walked on eggshells around. Today’s medical community would likely diagnose Mr. Johnson with PTSD, but in those days, WWII Vets were just seen as “being like that.”
From birth James had always been particularly pursuant of his father’s attention. He spent much of his childhood, as well as young adult life, at his father’s side, maintaining the home, carpentering, or rebuilding cars. From nine years old on, the two spent their weekends together in the woods, clearing land, carving driveways into hillsides and cutting trees into firewood, all with just their muscles, a chainsaw, an ax, a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a pickup truck. Just like his father, James rapidly became unusually strong for his slender frame. His father had taught him how to maintain a productive work ethic which has stayed with James for his whole life, making him always willing to work as hard as needed until any job was completely done.
James’s mother: James’s mother had been near death multiple times in her childhood with chronic kidney disorders. As an adult she expressed a constantly precarious level of anxiety, which the family also knew could erupt at any moment. Because of her multiple near-death experiences, today’s medical community might also diagnose her with non-military PTSD with hyper-anxiety disorder.
James’s sociopathic sister: One of the older sisters was also an undiagnosed narcissistic sociopath who prided herself in keeping the family in turmoil and making a sport out of starting fights between members, then criticizing them for not being able to get along. This sibling routinely used another one of the sociopathic tricks; divide and conquer. To make it work, she used even one more common sociopath tool, and kept the family in crisis and confusion, using chronic lies and gossip, shame, sadistic humor and bouts of “poor me” self-pity meant to make the better family members feel sorry for her enough to give her things she hadn’t earned. Any practicing sociopath knows that if they can't get what they want with honesty and asking, then they need to create a crisis so people will throw out the rules of normalcy and give whatever is needed to solve the crisis.
James and his little sister: By seventh grade, Catholic school life had become so horrifying that he had finally become seriously suicidal. Today he credits his young sister for being the one stable person who stood at his side no matter what, and for giving him the motivation to fight against further urges to kill himself. During most days, the two were often inseparable.
One day after school he finally broke his silence to beg on his life for a chance to leave St. Brendan's. He tried giving his mother some information about how badly he was being abused, but, like usual she argued with him, telling him he was, again, wrong and that the abuse wasn’t as bad as he said it was. She basically called him a liar, and then went on to say that no matter what was happening to him at Catholic school it would be many times worse in public school. Check mate. James had no voice in his own life. Unable to convince his mother that things at school were as bad as they were, he instead doubled down on his ability to split off in his mind, living one life at home, another at school and a third in his imagination where no one had any power to abuse or control him.
James was sent into daily battle completely disarmed. He was given no defenses whatsoever. He was forbidden from fighting, and was routinely humiliated and punished if he ever stood up for himself at home. Living alone in his imagination solved one problem but gave rise to a new one. By this time, PTSD had rendered him unable to stay engaged in reality. Any stress would blow the fuse on his brain and he'd retreat into the sanctity and privacy of his own mind. The real world was deadly and would end in suicide if he stayed in it. The imaginary world was safe and made more sense to him, so he found himself almost unable to pull out of it. Any time he needed to defend himself against the false accusations from his family, his sociopathic sister or his former best friend at school, or any other human being, he'd become paralyzed and unable to speak. Now in his sixties, this problem, though not as bad, remains with him today. His lifelong struggle to gain control of his PTSD has led him to being better able at staving off the dissociative trances more often than not. During the first half of his life it had been proven to him, in every way possible, that no one was ever going to be on his side, so when confronted with a need to stand up for himself his brain couldn’t find words to communicate with. PTSD would split his brain off into its own secret world. It would hide him from the reality that couldn’t be controlled. He would dissociate so badly he couldn’t speak or react. He would just go blank, turn a pale shade of gray, gaze through a spaced-out stare at nothing, and think about ways to kill himself later when the attack would end. And since he wasn't allowed to defend himself, he often had to live with the repercussions of what he had been accused of. Lies become the truth when the truth goes undefended.
Public High School
Healing can only begin after the abuse stops
In June of 1974, James graduated from Catholic school. The following spring he joined his neighborhood friends in the public-school system. James entered ninth grade at Canyon Park Junior High. He had one indignant explosion when his mother told him that his little sister was going to leave St. Brendan's early and to go to Canyon Park with him. He asked why and was told “because she wants to.” James yelled “SO DID I!” as he recalled the number of times he’d begged his mother to let him out of St. Brendan’s early. His mother’s response was “yes, but she’s a girl.” This event was just another in a lifelong string of actions that proved he was of less value than anyone else in the family.
His mother was wrong about one thing. Things in public school were not, in any way, worse than Catholic school. The lies and reputation from Catholic school did not follow him into public school. Ninth grade was a fresh start. James flourished at Canyon Park Jr. High. His grades went from D’s and F’s to straight A’s. During his year there, and the following years at Bothell Senior High, he made friends hand over fist. Everyone liked him and he couldn’t get enough socializing with all of them.
To his surprise, girls became interested in him right from the first day. But this didn’t set well with his mother. Throughout his next several years, dating became a point of contention at home. He was repeatedly forbidden by his controlling mother from staying with any one girl. She demanded that he not build any relationships beyond one date only. She effectively drove him to break up with every girl he’d ever dated.
Naturally, this just drove more secrets as James learned to date girls without telling his family about them. More secrets to manage.
1976 – present
During eleventh and twelfth grades, 1976-1978, he worked during lunch and after school at the Porterhouse Inn, a steak house in Kenmore Washington, making even more friends. His work ethic had driven him to the position of the busboy every waitress wanted to work with, especially on the busy nights. He worked seven shifts a week, both lunches and dinners. During his weekends, the restaurant owner hired him to paint his house, which led to the owner’s friends hiring him to do the same. From age sixteen on, James found himself always able to make good money and always able to find lucrative work.
He wanted to pursue the house painting. He wanted to trade his car for a pickup truck and start his own landscaping and house maintenance business with the skills his father had been teaching him from birth, but once again, his parents strictly forbid it, saying he wasn’t smart enough to handle his own business and needed to just keep working for other people.
In 1978 he graduated Bothell Sr. High with no plans of any kind to go on to college. His father had basically forbidden him from ever going to college, saying “College is just a way to milk your old man for four more years of free childhood.” His parents were critical of his friends who did go on to college, making James feel like college was a shameful waste of time and money.
James turned eighteen a month after graduation from Bothell High. On that birthday, his father, who had forbidden him from ever making any future plans, stormed into his room and yelled “You’re eighteen now! What are you going to do!? You can’t work in restaurants forever!” In a panic to please his father, James got into his car and found a job almost immediately at the Boeing Everett 747 Factory. Soon he had made enough money to move into an apartment.
Early Adult Life
Once on his own, James’s childhood wiring kicked in and he became his own worst enemy. His secret lives had created a duality in him that could not be controlled. Since most of his friends had gone on to college, he was losing touch with them. He felt abandoned, which kicked in his PTSD from years of aggressive isolationism.
Still close with his mother, who still didn’t approve of his dating, he was now aimlessly, and secretly, bouncing from one girlfriend to another. But now the stakes were higher, as these weren’t high school kids’ games, but were adult relationships that he was repeatedly failing at and walking away from. At twenty, his confusion was spiraling completely out of control. Feeling incompetent at handling adult life, he made two suicide attempts in two weeks. Both failed, and both were secret from his remaining friends and family.
He began showing up to work so depressed that he caught the attention of his boss, who was particularly fond of him. His boss tried to help by sending him to the HR Employee Assistance Program, who in turn required him to go to outside therapy. Between therapists and medical doctors, James was diagnosed with several seemingly unrelated problems such as Manic-Depression, digestive disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety, chronic headaches, backaches, and ADD. He was subjected to such misaligned fixes as Behavior Modification Therapy (Also called Cognitive Therapy), was given cheesy self-help books to read, and was prescribed anti-depressant drugs.
Many of these cures worked temporarily. But nothing touched on a permanent cure, which set him up for failure and launched a new complexity to his confusion. The more failed cures he experienced, the more evidence he saw to make him believe he was unfixable and doomed only to get worse.
At twenty years of age, after another in a long string of romantic breakups, deepening credit card debt and feeling completely out of control, he moved back home to Bothell to be cared for by his parents and closer to his little sister. There, in 1981, he stayed with them for only a few months until he’d turned twenty-one, calmed down, paid off his debts, and adopted a new, much slower paced, quieter lifestyle. He bought himself a brand-new single-wide mobile home near his employer in Everett Washington, stopped calling his friends, and committed to working long hours and to living alone from then on.
The problem was that his toxic sister, the sociopath, had moved into a home not far from him, and used her perceived elder authority and all her “poor me” tricks on him to manipulate him into making daily visits to her home so he could help raise her kids, paint her house, run her errands, give her his new appliances, etc. Since their mother was always so pleased at how well James took care of his problematic sister, James felt trapped and completely obligated to this toxic relationship.
Marriage and Children
At twenty-two years of age, and living alone in Everett, James met Colette working in a gas station a few blocks from his home. The two fell in love quickly. Fearing his family would intentionally undermine their relationship, as they had all his previous relationships, the two took a strategic, but risky move and married in secret only four weeks after their first date, not allowing family the time to interfere. The secret wedding created an expected stir of anxiety and anger throughout the family. Some family members, including the sociopathic sister who was angry at having lost her servant, gave insulting wedding gifts just to show their disrespect for what he’d done. But to their misfortune, and his great fortune, the marriage, unsanctioned by his family, but celebrated by Colette’s family, has worked for nearly four decades now, despite their judgmental rumors that he was a fool who was making bad choices for...well for whatever reason their sociopathic gossip-leader would pretend he'd made the decision.
To this day, the couple is still in love. James hails Colette as being the most honest person he’s ever known. Given his trust issues, especially with those closest to him, he knows he couldn’t survive anyone less honest than her. Also, despite his lifelong affliction with mood swings and poor self-image, Colette has always loved him deeply. She’s often been heard saying “he’s worth the trouble.”
Over the years the couple has given birth to two sons and has been a big part in the childhoods of their son’s friends. In 2003 they took Colette’s mother in to care for her for the next fourteen years until she peacefully passed of old age, at home, and surrounded by loved ones. They now have two grandchildren also. James and Colette choose to live near their children and grandchildren because they’ve learned the wrong way--and the right way--to love and enjoy a family. They choose to be supportive parents and grandparents by being functioning, uplifting participants in the lives of their offspring.
One day, during an invasive prostate exam, memories from second grade blackouts flooded James's brain and began a life of torment. The blackouts were explained. Sexual abuse. He now knew why he had not wanted to talk about sex with his friend at ten years of age. The breakthrough brought some momentum to his emotional healing. Still being misdiagnosed as needing Cognitive Therapy and medication, he wasn’t going to receive a lot of successful treatment, but knowing the root of his depressions was helpful.
As he opened up more and more about the abuse he’d taken at seven years of age, and the sexually charged mob-abuse he took for years and years at religious school, the couple both felt the need to become part of the solution, rather than remain as victims of his abuse. They chose to give back to the community by becoming trained Volunteer Sexual Assault Victim Advocates. For a few years they manned a 24-hour crisis line, worked on-call to all area hospitals and law enforcement agencies, to come and sit with, and advocate for rape victims at any time night or day. James also spoke at other community agencies, colleges and schools on how to recognize and respond to victims of sexual assault. Eventually the couple started several support groups for victims to share their stories and to find support with peers who had experienced the same things.
One of the support groups James started alone was for adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This was where he learned that other men who had experienced the same abuse he’d experienced, also showed many of the same symptoms in adult life as he was living. All the men in the group were suicidal and prone to over drinking to subdue a pain that wouldn’t go away on its own. These men were all self-destructive and reclusive, choosing to live alone in quiet places where they didn’t have to share a space with someone who might turn on them at any given moment. They all had the same trust issues stemming from the people they'd once trusted who'd turned their trust into a vulnerability to abuse. James discovered he was not so unique. He wasn’t a broken person. He was a healthy person responding in a normal way to a broken childhood.
Still living with the diagnosis that he was Manic Depressive, this mens’ group led him to wonder if all the diagnoses he’d received to date had been wrong. If the diagnoses were wrong, then so were the treatments that followed. This epiphany later became a cornerstone to his writing.
At thirty-eight, James, by now a manager at Boeing, had built a number of long-term, supportive friendships with people who truly loved him, which gave him strength and courage to do more exciting things. Despite periodic bouts with suicidal depression, his overall personality was that of kindness, compassion, empathy, and, above all, humor. Kind humor. Not mean humor. With the support of his wife, his sons, and his friends, he became an amateur stand up comedian, working off and on for over two years in the greater Seattle area. He was particularly funny and was known for his open and vulnerable admissions on stage. He used stage performances as a venue for airing his deepest secrets and vulnerabilities in ways that he, and everyone else, could relate to and laugh at.
Today he calls the stage his church. It’s where he went to air his mistakes and his hopes, and to feel the support of people who also admitted to mistakes, giving him healing and a sense of connection to all mankind.
But to his surprise, James didn’t enjoy the hint of celebrity status. He has discovered that it’s not uncommon for people who deal with chronic PTSD and chronic anxiety to repel against fame. Just as he began to feel his private life slipping into the public domain, and as offers for paid gigs started to emerge, he panicked and stopped performing. As much as he enjoys entertaining people, even today, the fear of public attack and the lack of privacy associated with fame is an impasse for him. He enjoys being a writer whose fame isn’t linked with a recognizable face. He can walk about the public with anonymity.
Living as a Man with Non-Military PTSD
Trust ain’t easy when you don’t know who is on your side
James’s next breakthrough came at forty years of age, when in early 2000, he finally connected with the right therapist and was correctly diagnosed with non-military PTSD. With great success, he and his fifth therapist abandoned all the previous misdiagnoses and began to work with treatments commonly used for PTSD sufferers, which brought the path of his healing to a new and more permanent momentum. His following rapid and long-lasting success then prompted him to share his success publicly. Soon he was being hired here and there to speak at Professional Development events.
But to feed his own personal healing, any attempts at writing books or articles sharing his true story ended in a frustrating sense of writer’s block and trauma-driven dissociation, which then digressed into depressive episodes which would spiral his life out of control again, and would last for days, or even weeks after each writing attempt. It seemed by now that writing would never be a part of his future.
Eight years later his life was awesome. His PTSD seemed to be under control once and for all. His marriage and family were flourishing. Meanwhile, that summer, his younger sister had fallen into a deep depression of her own. She had been fielding an unexplained barrage of attacks from their sociopathic older sister and she felt no support at all from the rest of the family. She and James had been working together to try and find her a good therapist. Then, in that summer of 2008, only a few weeks before his forty-eighth birthday, and only a few days before her own birthday, and a week after she'd begun a new anti-anxiety medication, she drowned inexplicably, alone in her own swimming pool. Almost exactly 45 years to the day from remembering having first met her, he lost her.
James’s PTSD crashed and became worse than ever, fast. He’d lived his entire life sharing his life with her, assuming that since they were so much younger than all their siblings, they and their spouses were going to be the last two families remaining and would move near each other to a beach somewhere to live out their golden years free from family stress.
No matter how he framed it, he couldn’t make sense of what their older sociopathic sister had done to her or why the rest of the family allowed it to happen until she died. He became obsessed with memories of his own abusive and unsupported childhood at home and Catholic school. He eventually became crushed by remorse that he hadn’t stood more firmly at her side against the toxicity of their sibling and the calloused lack of support by the parents who'd claimed to love them both so much.
An autopsy was found to be inconclusive. Cause of death was drowning. That’s all. Nothing more. The coroner’s report showed no sign of struggle nor of illegal drugs or alcohol, which was consistent with her personality. She would never touch any stimulants like cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, or drugs. Her death was not ruled as suicide, but believing it most probably was one, James and his mother were the two people who took her death the hardest. Like him, James’s sister was considered to be an exceptionally likeable, funny, kind person. An easy person to bully. Her death is considered by many to be the reason his mother gave up on her own life and intentionally let her own health slip and fail quickly. Within only nine months, she deteriorated and died of kidney failure. James believes it is not a coincidence that she died less than ten minutes before Mother’s Day that year.
To be willing to die for your family is noble. To be willing to die because of your family…foolish.
James’s family, which had already struggled with decades of covert dysfunction, ugly jealousy, and routine use of sociopathic gossip, lies and isolation techniques to constantly drive wedges between members, went into its greatest turmoil of them all, as two of his siblings and a sister-in-law rallied around their angry, shell-shocked father, now riddled with two types of dementia. They used intimidation, lies, and rumors, to push James away from his father. For slightly over two years James fought to stay in his father’s life, but finally, on the anniversary of his little sister’s death, while unable to accept the blatant betrayals of the two elder siblings and a sister-in-law, who had banded together to keep him away, James’s fourth and final suicide attempt ultimately proved to him that his soulful connection to his family’s lifelong, but escalating unhealthy behaviors were far too toxic for him to live through. Today he often says “Fear can disguise itself as honor. Now I know that I honored my family for five decades because I was terrified of them.”
Having spent most of his life particularly close to his father, the act of his sibling’s use of Gaslighting and lies to drive him out, most likely for a bigger share of inheritance money, finally became too tangled up to comprehend. The last straw was when one of them altered an email, then printed the altered version and gave it to their father to convince him that James was planning to kill them all. That’s when he finally came to accept that there was only chronically escalating, sociopathic chaos in store for staying involved with family. As his father screamed into the phone “I’m having you arrested!” James felt a warm peace come over his body. He calmly said, “Goodbye Dad. I love you” and hung up. A few days later, on his own fiftieth birthday, he was out shopping with Colette when he got a sociopathic text from his sister that read “We need to talk before I get attorneys Involved.” James knew his sister never asked anyone for anything, but instead always said “You need to…” and then demanded everything she wanted. He also knew that she always childishly threatened everyone with lawsuits. He laughed and looked up from his phone screen. There, across the parking lot was the phone store. He walked in, held up his phone and said, “I need to change my phone number.”
While in the store he also changed his house phone number. He went home and changed his email address.
Estrangement is often an all-or-nothing commitment.
Sociopaths attack you behind your back. They spread lies and rumors about you to anyone who knows you by name. They burn in rage when they can't reach you personally, so they poison your entire social group if they can. Their goal is always the same, to divide and conquer. They take people who know each other and they divide them into two teams, hoping it will be everyone against the one person. Psychologists call these friends and relative Flying Monkeys, because as in the iconic movie, The Wizard of Oz, the Flying Monkeys hated the Wicked Witch, but they blindly followed her orders and did all her killing for her. So it is with people who choose to believe a sociopath’s lies, and who then choose sides based on those lies.
James knew that this estrangement, if it were to successfully and permanently separate him from his brother, sister-in-law and sister, would have to include every Flying Monkey relative and family friend who had ever known him. Today he says “If I let so much as ONE person that knows my sister into my life, I will be puncturing my own hull. Through just one leak, the entire ocean of my sister’s hate will flood my life and sink it.”
James gave in and moved on. He now says that if pain is meant to bring about change, then his tolerance for family pain had finally reached its limit, and he finally made the change he wishes he’d have executed decades sooner. He now says that being free from his family is the greatest feeling he’s ever known. He smiles when he says “My siblings finally became so ugly that even I couldn’t love them anymore.” The estrangement, at fifty, was to be the beginning of a whole new life for him.
From the rubble of destruction, a new world can grow and flourish
To James’s surprise magic happened. Once separated from the dysfunctional family that had spent decades swirling around him with constant, relentless criticism, lies, gaslighting, and berating comments about his lack of worth as a human being, his lifetime of dissociative writer’s block immediately ceased as if by flipping off a switch. In November 2011, on a weekend alone on a Pacific Coastal Beach, his first book began to gush from his heart and mind so fast he could barely type fast enough for his fingers to keep up.
For the next six years, he wrote obsessively. He learned, and studied, and wrote until November 2017 when all three books were ready to be published. Much of the complexity and genius of the fictional Bullies & Allies trilogy is from his own life. But much of it is also from the lives of his clients from his years as a Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate. All the characters are realistic, and all the scenarios are plausible. The characters are compilations of multiple people he’s known in his life. All of his thoughts come from his own empathetic connection to having walked in the shoes of his characters. But no one in any book is a direct description of any one person.
In addition to writing three full length, high quality novels, James also spent those years during his fifties obtaining a college degree. To his great joy, the family was no longer able to tell him what he was not capable of doing.
Paperbacks & Kindle books are available at Amazon.com
Born James Fredrick Johnson
Bullies & Allies is a beautiful and realistic story of the destructive power of Bullying & the healing power of Friendship. It brings light to lifelong Trauma & to lifelong Healing
St. Paul Minnesota
Years Active 2011 - present
Johnson in 2018
Email Contact: James@JamesFJohnson.com