If You’re Currently Getting Therapy From OnlineCounselor.com, You Need To Hear What Happened To Me

scary story about online counseling
Negative Space

Have you ever sat in the office of a psychiatrist or a therapist or a counselor? I don’t know about you, but I can’t handle it. Sitting across from a cheap wooden desk in a plastic chair in front of some kind of Walmart wisdom motivational poster. I always felt like I was in my high school guidance counselor’s office again, trying to avoid eye contact with someone with a shaky grasp on an AA degree trying to tell me what I should do. No thanks.

The issues which brought me into a therapist’s office didn’t magically melt away after the one half-assed appointment I did before I quit yet another activity that required me to regularly show up somewhere at a given time. No shocker. I was still a mess. The broken engagement, dead end job and nearly-dead mom still hung heavy on my soul. It was all a thick winter coat I couldn’t take off no matter how hard the sun shone in the Texas summer sky.

The problem was that I was a modern creature of the Internet. Other than a few very close friends, the only people I actually talked to in-person anymore were all clerks who I didn’t get into it much further with than a “Hi,” “How are you doing?” and “Good, you?” If lucky.

I find it funny that life has been reduced to two people asking how each is doing with both lying by saying “good.” It’s probably why I have withdrawn into my computer. At least trolls are honest about their sentiment.

Given my dwindling social interaction capabilities, I did research into online counseling. I was thrilled to find that there were numerous options available. Most let you do something as discrete as have an IM chat or exchange emails. Email sounded like the setup for me. I hated Skype and Facetime even more than talking to people in-person.

Once I put in my credit card information into a site called OnlineCounselor.com for a very reasonable monthly amount, I was able to send an email to the counselor of my choice (some guy named Evan who had a degree from UT, like me) to get things started.

My initial email could be about anything, but the site suggested doing a general introduction with a little about why you are seeking counseling. Here goes…

Hi Evan,

My name is Phoebe. I am a 27-year-old woman who lives in a small town in Texas. I work doing data entry remotely for a company in Houston and spend most of my free time on social media, watching TV, and working out at home on my workout bike. I live in the same town where I grew up, and have only left the state of Texas once to visit family in Oklahoma.

I think I have depression and that I have had it my entire adult life, but never addressed it. I think the reason I never have is because I had an ignorant understanding of depression from TV and movies. I thought depression meant you laid in bed all day, crying your eyes out, thinking about killing yourself and listening to sad music. My depression was always more of a slow malaise, a disinterest in life. I only realized it when I got so deep into it that I realized I am basically living my life underwater. While I might not feel stereotypically sad or depressed, I am never really happy. I think I need to do something about it.

I want to say I am really excited about this email format. I have tried in-person counseling/therapy, but it has never worked for me.

Look forward to hearing back from you.

Phoebe

I anxiously awaited an answer from my counselor “Evan.”

I received my response before the end of the day.

Hi Phoebe,

Nice to meet you and I look forward to being your counselor. It was very nice to hear a little bit about you and I look forward to learning more.

I hope I am able to help you. Your submission is currently being reviewed and you should receive feedback from me (Evan), shortly.

Best,

Evan

I wanted to throw up my afternoon string cheese and carrots. The whole thing felt like a form response. I was worried I had been swindled. I assumed Evan’s real name was Robot and my credit card information had already been compromised. I thought about cancelling everything, but figured I would give it at least one day.

Hi Evan,

Thank you for getting back to me. I look forward to getting our counseling started and addressing my issues…

Phoebe

I woke up to a much better response.

Phoebe,

I want to extend a deep apology for the brevity and lack of detail in my first email. I want to be honest and say that my mother passed away yesterday morning and I wanted to let you know that I received your first email, but I honestly was not in the right mind to begin truly working with you.

Now, with that out of the way, I would like to really begin our conversation. Going over what you said again, I agree that you do have some depression issues that you have outlined, and I would love to help you.

To move forward, I would like to know if you have ever taken any medication for depression?

Also, I love to start out with a bit of an interesting exercise. Can you please send me a summary of every year of your life starting at 0, going to your current age with a one-sentence description of that year of your life? I find this frequently reveals a lot about a person’s situation. For the years before your memory was formed, please provide a summary of what you know externally about what was going on in your, and your family’s lives.

Thank you,

Evan

My response:

0 – Living in a cold house by the river in Waco with mice in the walls.

1 – Mom and dad split and he moved to Lubbock.

2 – My brother Earl was born and we moved to Alice, Texas.

3 – My mom and dad got back together, but it didn’t work, they got in a huge fight and he moved to Florida.

4 – First real memories and they are mainly of moving into the house I spent the rest of my childhood in in downtown Alice and playing in the streets and yards of the town with my neighbors.

5 – Going to Grandma’s house down in Corpus Christi almost every day because something was going on with mom that she never really talked about.

6 – Starting Kindergarten and school and having it mean that I rarely saw my mom because she worked nights.

7 – Going on a long road trip to the Texas State Fair with dad, but not really remembering why or what happened, just remembered that it was the last time I ever saw him.

8 – Earl got in trouble and moved to Florida with dad.

9 – Made my first real friends at school – Brianna and Christina and had a really fun summer playing down at the community pool.

10 – Mom got really sick and was in bed for months, but made it through by Christmas.

11 – Started to turn into a teenager by having schoolyard boyfriends and writing notes.

12 – Had my first “real” boyfriend, James, who I spent almost every day with and went to the mall a lot with him, Brianna and Christina.

13 – Broke up with James and spent six months in my room.

14 – Started spending a lot of time with mom again as she stopped working for most of the year.

15 – Started high school and got a new boyfriend, Romeo (Yes, that was his real name), and started to separate from my mom again as she got a new boyfriend as well, Colt, who lived in Corpus Christi.

16 – Got my driver’s license and spent most of my days after school driving around town with my friends and hanging out at whoever’s house didn’t have parents at it.

17 – Started partying a lot and drinking with my friends and lived most of my time at Romeo’s place as he was 19 and had an apartment in town with friends.

18 – Somehow kept my grades up just enough to get into college and graduated high school.

19 – Started college and really upped that partying – drank heavily and went out at least 3-4 nights a week and drifted away from Romeo.

20 – Nearly failed out of college, but kept it together and made it through the second year while I tried to clean up my act a little bit, but failed.

21 – Put the pieces back together and worked myself back up to a decent GPA, but pretty much stopped socializing for an entire year.

22 – Finished college, met my future ex-fiancé Tom. Fell in love, and lived with him in Austin.

23 – Got engaged to Tom.

24 – Got un-engaged from Tom. Moved back to Alice because I had nowhere else to go. Took over a now ex-friend’s depressing studio apartment.

25 – Got the job doing online data entry for Happy Corporation and began the slow dive into barely ever leaving home and barely ever actually talking to anyone.

26 – Officially melted into the malaise of wake, work, eat, TV/Internet, sleep, try not to cry.

27 – Here we are :) :(

Phoebe,

Now that I have a better understanding of your situation, I think I can move forward with a deeper analysis. To me, it seems that you had a chaotic childhood. I would love to hear more about the situation with your mother and father and how it unfolded in your early years and your views on it, and both of them, now.

Also, it sounds like drinking in high school and at UT may have compounded the developing depression you already had lurking beneath the surface. I cannot tell you how many patients I get who were okay and then went off to Austin and suddenly found themselves depressed. It is sad that the years American kids decide to start guzzling vodka is the worst four-year period in the development of the brain to do that outside of infancy.

Can you please send me a bit on your parents? It can be as long or as short as you like.

Best,

Evan

I appreciated the counseling in Evan’s response and the feeling of true care which seemed to radiate from his message, into my screen, onto my eyes and into my heart. Just having someone hear out my life and ask the right questions without having to have their eyes judge me in a room was therapeutic.

However, I got a panicky, throat gulp feeling in my chest when I read Evan’s email for the second time. I never specifically mentioned in my email that I went to The University of Texas, but Evan mentioned UT, in his email. It washed away all the good vibes his counseling had created.

Evan,

Before we move forward, I am very concerned with something. I never mentioned that I went to The University of Texas for college, yet, you mentioned that. How did you get that information?

Thank you,

Phoebe

I felt numb as I paced around my apartment for the next few hours. I hadn’t been able to send off my email to Evan until 4:45 p.m. central time and he never seemed to send out emails after 5 p.m. I couldn’t imagine having to sleep through the night without an answer about why he knew that information about me. I must have refreshed my inbox every two minutes throughout the night.

My salvation came just before 8:30 as I was finishing my depressing dinner of baked chicken and steamed vegetables reheated in the microwave.

Phoebe,

I understand your concern. I will be honest. I admit that I did online Google research of your name once assigned your case. I understand if this is overstepping boundaries and you are uncomfortable and would like to be assigned a new counselor. I will gladly make the arrangements.

However, you need to know that I only do this research because I truly believe it helps me quickly understand my patients and allows for them to get closer to a path of happiness more swiftly in this day and age. I feel it cuts out a lot of the time and awkwardness of going over some of the basic things we could discuss and helps me build a connection since we are only going to be communicating digitally anyway.

I do not do anything with the information I find outside of our counseling sessions and I do not save any information, photos or videos.

Please let me know if this is acceptable and you would like to continue or if you would like to be transferred to another counselor.

Thank you,

Evan

I was torn. Evan’s online stalking felt like a punch to my funny bone, but I appreciated the honesty. I’m not going to act like I don’t online research every person I ever come into contact with. I could also understand just how helpful that could be and I felt Evan was the first person in my life in a counselor role who ever seemed liked they might be able to truly help me.

Hi Evan,

I admit that I was/am fairly freaked out about it, but I think I can work through it and understand why you did it. I guess you wouldn’t really be doing your job if you DIDN’T do it. I would like to move forward with you. I have felt this has really helped me. I am one step closer to where I want to me. There are a lot of steps left, but I feel I am heading in the right direction for the first time in a long time.

Thank you,

Phoebe

A new email pinged into my inbox while I was writing to Evan. I got that horrible feeling that it was something bad and not just another spam email from Travelocity or something.

I was right.

Phoebe,

It is with deep regret that I have to let you know that starting July 26, 2017, we will be forced to eliminate your position. Since The Happy Corporation was acquired by Raveon Industries earlier in the year, we have been forced to eliminate all contractor and off-site positions until a full audit has been conducted, expected to be finished in the Spring of 2018.

If a position opens up after the audit in 2018 where you may be a fit, you will hear from us.

Thank you for your understanding.

Sheryl Light
Senior Operations Manager
Raveon Industries

The tears started at the first sentence. I knew this day was coming ever since the acquisition. Overnight, everyone I worked with became distant. They didn’t ghost me, but it took just a little bit longer to reply to my emails. They stopped liking my statuses on Facebook. I was never invited into the office anymore for meetings.

Knowing it was coming didn’t make it hurt any less. The tone and copy of the email from Sheryl hurt most of all. I worked with the woman for years – sent her flowers after she had her first baby and after her father died, and she sent me what was clearly a form email to break up our professional relationship. Fuck life. Fuck people. Fuck corporations.

Once the pain and butt hurt wore off, the fear crept in. I only had enough money in my bank account for one more month of rent, and probably a month of food, utilities, gas, et cetera. My body flushed hot. I worried what I was going to do for a money as a lightly-skilled, socially-awkward recluse, with a growing case of oppositional defiant disorder.

A new email pushed down Sheryl’s form letter of dismissal. My heart sang when I saw it was from Evan.

Phoebe,

I am glad to hear that you would like to continue and I apologize again for the difficulties I may have caused.

I would like to go forward with a new exercise.

What scares you?

Thank you,

Evan

This was an easy one.

Being homeless. Being alone. Being alone when I am older. Dying alone when I’m older and no one finds my body for like three weeks because I don’t have anyone in my life. The shower. People sneaking up on me in the shower and slipping in the shower. My parking garage.

Phoebe

I zipped my reply off to Evan and collapsed onto my couch. I remained there for what must have been eight hours. I was paralyzed. The thought of even just crawling to my bed or making food in the kitchen was too much.

I sat on my laptop for most of the time – aimlessly searching random things on the Internet and scouring LinkedIn and Indeed for any job in the state of Texas I thought I could fill. I even applied for a front desk position at a church in Galveston. Save me Jesus.

My paralysis was broken by a reply from Evan. I fell off the couch I was in such a scramble to open up his email.

Phoebe,

Thank you for completing the exercise. I think it will help me help you.

You seemed hurried and stressed in your answer though. I was wondering, is everything okay right now?

Evan

At this point, I won’t just share the direct emails between me and Evan. I will just tell you what happened because everything started to happen a lot more in real life than just on the Internet.

It started in my parking garage.

My parking garage was dark, perpetually moist and a breeding ground for spiders the size of silver dollars. I regularly considered actually parking my car on the street in the 100-degree Texas heat instead of parking down in the dank pit.

I came home from a depressing interview at the Target on the other side of town, sweating through my blouse and skirt from nerves. I hadn’t had an interview in years and forgot how torturous they are. I could still feel the manager’s eyes searing into my soul and into my resume on the table.

I sat in the car with the music still on to let out a good cry before I went back into my baking apartment and sweated out the growing fear and depression. It was still the afternoon, but the garage was almost completely dark. Only a little bit of light trickled in from the opening I had just driven down. The lone light bulb in the hole which barely fit the eight cars parked in it must have burned out again.

My eyes dried, my jaw returned to its normal location, and I felt ready to retreat to the solace of my apartment and my dwindling bank account. I grabbed hold of the door handle. I looked out the driver’s-side window. I stopped.

I could see a man in a plain white t-shirt standing behind one of my building mate’s Honda Civic. I think he thought he was concealed by a pillar, but I don’t think he realized there was a mirror on the far side of the wall to help people turn around in the cramped space which reflected right on him.

I locked the door. I stared at the man in the near dark for a few moments. He was pale, doughy soft, light hair which was bushy and too long and shaped almost like a helmet around his head. His eyes locked on the door which lead out of the garage and to a steep flight of stairs.

The breaths came fast and ragged. I started the car again. The man rustled in his spot. He walked out from behind the car and headed to the door.

Relief rushed in. I saw a pipe in the guy’s hand. He must have just hiding out smoking. He was probably friends with someone in the building or something. He probably didn’t care the least about some non-descript girl sitting in her car crying about an interview at Target.

My low self-esteem beat out my fear. I should have emailed Evan that the only thing more powerful than those fears that I sent him was my crippling self-doubt. I walked out the garage and up the stairs, already forgot about the guy and his shitty weed that lingered in the dark space.

The fear slipped away. Quickly replaced by a letter taped to my door which informed that my rent was going up by $75 next month. I threw away the letter in my trashcan next to an entire box of Oreos I had eaten the night before in a panicked fluster.

I forgot about the incident until a few days later when I received a crack in the case of Who The Hell Was Evan?

I couldn’t remember doing it, but I requested to follow the private Instagram account of a man who lived in Tulsa, who I was pretty sure was Evan. His main photo was too small to see what he really looked like, but the information I had on him led me to believe that it was him.

I had made a dummy account strictly for stalking. I used it to request a follow of what I thought was Evan’s profile. It took weeks, but it looked like it worked.

It also looked like it was definitely Evan, as in, my online counselor Evan’s Instagram account. All the information I had gleaned about him added up.

There wasn’t much I could do with the Instagram. I now knew that Evan was a white guy in his 30s who loved craft beer, college football, Game of Thrones and lived in a mid-sized city. Not exactly anything I couldn’t have just guessed.

However, there was one golden nugget nestled down in there. It appeared that Even worked for a construction company. There was nothing that even remotely suggested that he was some kind of counselor. It felt like a low heat lamp turned on above my head. Beads of sweat started to ooze out my pores.

Was the online counseling some kind of side gig he did? I mean, it couldn’t have been that time-consuming since it was just emails back and forth or video chats.

No. The guy looked like a borderline shit kicker who certainly didn’t look like he could pass masters courses in psychology. He didn’t look like he would be the least bit cerebral about anything in life except maybe where the guy should cum on the girl in porn. They always say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but let’s be honest.

The entire world felt prickly too me. Cement poured into my blood. I wanted to just sit like a rock. It took everything I had to just use my fingers to type further research into Evan, and the company he supposedly worked for.

There was nothing more on Evan. He maintained the standard online presence of a Midwestern, heterosexual, white, male – poorly edited Facebook profile, long-abandoned Twitter profile with some misspelled opinions about sports.

Evan also maintained another fixture of straight, white, foolish, Midwestern male online presence – the dumbass left his phone number on his public Facebook profile. It was probably part of some ill-conceived strategy where a hot, young girl or long-lost high school crush would search for him, see his number, and immediately dial it up to confess their love/lust.

Evan was going to get a call from a young lady who saw his number on that Facebook profile, but it wasn’t going to be some heated-up girl looking to confess her love. It was going to be a clinically depressed young woman who hadn’t worn make-up in years with a deep, deep desire to claw his eyes out.

“Hey-lo,” Evan answered after the first ring.

It’s funny how girls recoil at calls from unknown numbers. Worried it’s going to be some kind of stalker or rapist, but guys jump on them like it’s going to be a the aforementioned woman on a Navy Seal mission for their dick.

“Hi, is this Evan?” I asked.

“Yeah, who’s this?”

“I want to ask you about your online counseling?”

“What?” Evan sounded as if he had suddenly thrown down a hopelessly confused switch in his head.

“You have been working on online counseling with my friend, and she is concerned that you are stalking her, or something, online.”

“What the hell are you talking about. I’m on my way home from work. I don’t have time for this shit.”

“You work for Online Counseling Inc.”

“Is this the shit about the alcohol counseling? I already did that.”

“No. No. No. You work for the company giving online counseling for my friend.”

“Look, I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. I work for DGR in Tulsa. If this is a joke or something, pick something more funny next time Dane.”

The phone cut out.

I got a call back from Evan’s number about 15 minutes later.

A young woman lit into me as soon as I answered.

“Who is this?” She snapped at me before I could even finish saying “hello.”

“Uh, I am calling for a friend because there has been strange behavior by Evan in online counseling.”

“What you seriously talking about? There’s nothing with Evan about online counseling. We don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Oh, okay.”

“You’re getting catfished or something. Stop calling my boyfriend.”

Another hang-up.

I had never felt more vulnerable in my life. I felt like someone was watching me at every second. I put a piece over the camera on my laptop like a paranoid freak. I felt like someone would be waiting for me outside if I walked out my door.

I had to continue my research. It was the only thing that would make me a little bit sane, give me some kind of power.

It was in the midst of the research that I came up with the idea which would get me closer to solving the mystery, or problem, but would also throw me as close to true danger as I had ever been in my life.

I started weaving a trap.

Evan,

Things have really spiraled out of control after losing my job. I am starting to feel that simple online back-and-forth might not be enough anymore. I was wondering. Would you be able to do a phone call? Could you give me your number to call?

Thank you,

Phoebe

Evan replied back with his phone number. I couldn’t believe it. It was a 539 area (Tulsa), but I thought it was a dummy account, something I think you can set up with Google. It was a hint though. I Googled the number and got my first lead.

The number was registered to a Robert Powers in Round Rock, Texas.

I never set up that call with Evan/Robert. I just looked into what I could do legally with the information I had. Sadly, it ended up basically being nothing.

Coincidently, I was just a few minutes removed from receiving the news about my helplessness when it came to reporting this Robert Powers for anything, when I got the call from the 539 number which was registered to him.

“Hello.”

“Hi, is this Phoebe?” a male voice that was definitely not the Evan that I talked to from Tulsa replied.

Had I put my cell phone number into the form when I signed up for the counseling? I had to of. Damnit.

I didn’t know how to answer.

“You wanted to set up a call?” The voice went on.

“I uh,” I stammered.

“You wanted to talk to me,” the voice went on.

“Evan?” I asked.

“Yes.”

Silence lingered for what felt like five minutes, but was probably more like five seconds.

“You aren’t who you say you are,” I finally dribbled the words out of my pursed lips.

The line cut out.

“Hello?”

No answer.

“Hello?”

It wasn’t hard to find out more about Robert Powers in Round Rock online. The good old Williamson County sex offender registry had a nice little profile on him. Sexual assault where threats and intimidation were used, along with a weapon. Nice.

It took a few seconds once I laid my eyes on the photo of Robert Power on the website, but my stomach dropped once it all clicked. The guy I saw in my parking garage with the sandy blonde hair and pudgy cheeks. Yep! That was Robert Powers. He was just hanging out in my parking garage smoking weed.

I thought about the image of him standing in my bedroom closet the second I saw his face. I checked it. He wasn’t there, but I had the feeling he wasn’t too far away. I could almost sense it.

I got another call. I checked the number. It was my ex-fiancé – Tom. What the hell? We broke up five years before and hadn’t talked since. I was shocked he had my phone number.

I had to answer.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Phoebe?” I instantly recognized Tom’s voice, his tenor striking a little break in my heart. “How are you?”

“You know.”

“Well, I’m sure you’re freaked out about me calling you, but it’s crazy. I’ve been thinking about you lately. A lot.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I was going through the old messages you sent me, and thinking. Would you want to come up to Abilene to stay with me for a little while?”

My heart tingled. Let me explain.

Tom and I met just as college was ending. Some stupid bar down the street from my apartment where you had to scream over the frat boys belting out “Sweet Caroline” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” right in your ear. He was a rarity – a respectful college guy who could go to the bar on a Saturday night and just have a few beers and relax and not try to sexually harass you right off the bat or breathe hot Busch Light fumes all over you and ask for your number, only to put the wrong number in his phone and never talk to you again.

Tom seemed like he might be the person who could be my life line in my life’s stew of pain. He was stable, reliable, nice, trustworthy – everything everyone in my life never was. He was my rock.

Until he wasn’t.

I think Tom had too much of my shit. Too much of the broken family. The late night calls from my mom. Having to wake up in the middle of the night on a weeknight and comfort me until the sun rose and he had to go off to his real job and make the money for the first apartment I ever lived in with AC that we shared.

It was too much for him. I could tell. He broke it off a couple of years after college and cut me loose to float out in the painful fray of a troubled life.

I couldn’t resist when he invited me up to Abilene to give the help he couldn’t give me a few years before. I needed it. I needed it more than the breath in my lungs. The person who I fell asleep thinking about every night wanted to help me again. I couldn’t get into my car fast enough and floor board to Abilene.

Tom had a house. Sure, it was in a dust shit Texas plains town, but he owned what looked like it had to be at least a three-bedroom on a tree-lined street on the better side of the town. A nice, little, cozy brick abode.

I walked up the walkway from the sidewalk dreaming of being wrapped up in Tom’s thin arms. I dreamed of watching the shows he posted about on Facebook all the time together. I prepped my thoughts on The Walking Dead and Bates Motel as I walked up to the front door.

Words started flying out of my mouth before Tom could even get the door open.

“Oh my God. I’m so happy to see you. How are you?”

“I’m good. Come in.”

Tom’s hand resting softly on the small of my back felt magical as he let me in. It sparked a vision in my brain of a return to the life I wish I could get back.

Have you ever had a moment in your life where the script of the movie of the life you wanted to live actually came true? I finally did. I had spent many restless nights lying in bed, crafting draft after draft of how Tom would come back into my life and bring me back to the best version of myself and the best version of my life.

I danced on those pages which finally rested on the desk of reality in my life and laughed at the crumpled piles of discarded rough drafts in the waste basket of my brain. I had only been back in Tom’s grasp for seconds, but I felt the songbirds were singing like they knew the score.

I fell in love with Tom. That script was written like the screenplay for a Nicholas Sparks novel. Tom invited me to move my meager possessions out of my place and move in with him in Abilene. He told me to take my time in finding a job up there as well.

We went back to what we were just after college. He worked, we celebrated each other on the weekends, spent weeknights tucked in bed watching our favorite shows and made love in the dark.

It was enough to make me almost completely forget about Evan and the sketchy online counseling. I didn’t even report it. I just checked the company’s website once a few weeks after moving in with Tom and noticed it was gone.

It was all perfect. Until Tom started talking about the emails.

It took him a few months to bring up the emails. I wish he never had. I wish I could have stayed in the perfect daydream.

“You know. I wish I wouldn’t have deleted those first emails you sent me,” Tom said one night at our dinner table after a few beers.

“What are you talking about?”

“I ignored like the first fifteen ones you sent, but it was that one where you talked about the state fair that finally caught me.”

“What?”

Tom showed me the 15 emails from my Gmail that he ignored. They read like me. They were written from my legit Gmail, but I did not write the desperate and apologetic requests for rekindled love. Not a single one.

Here’s the thing though. The emails were perfect. They started as deep-hearted apologies to Tom about what happened when we were together. They didn’t put any pressure on a response. They didn’t ask any questions, didn’t ask for movement forward. They just put the sorry on the table and let it sit.

Then the emails got a little more calculated. They congratulated Tom on the life he crafted based on what you could find on social media. These went on for about 10 more emails.

Finally, once the venom of pity, flattery and nostalgia had taken hold, the email struck. It left my phone number on the offering table and prompted a call.

That was the first call I took which reunited Tom and I that turned everything around. It was not the magic of the universe I had at first thought made it happen. It was the twisted work of the man who had bamboozled me with the sketchy at best online counseling/catfish situation – Evan, or Robert, or whatever.

The only thing I really did was change every single one of my passwords to random collections of numbers and letters no one could ever guess. It must have been easy for Evan to crack my earlier email password which was just my pornstar name and the year I was born (combination of first pet and street I grew up on), no caps or spaces – sonnyeastlake89.

Tom and I are still together almost a year later. Our engagement is back on, more than five years after it initially broke.

Things are much better. I have a job, another dead-end one, but a job. I live in a nice home with central air. I feel strong enough to talk to my mom once a week, and even spent Thanksgiving with her.

I never told Tom that I was not the one who sent those emails that lured him back. We also never discussed the email I actually wrote in the year after our initial break up which were mostly psychotic.

Not a day passes where I don’t think about the snake still in the tall grass around my soul of Evan/Robert. I know he is out there waiting to strike again as I live my life, but I don’t want to do anything that might compromise the situation I got myself back into. So I keep him there, coiled below the grass, always a threat.

I actually almost want to thank Evan/Robert in a way. It may have been an awful, morbid way, but I feel like he did his job as an online counselor, maybe even a bit too well. He truly went online and patched up my problems by crafting the email copy which got me back with Tom.

As long as things hold. It was worth every penny. However, I know a day may come when it won’t be worth a single smashed penny lying in the dirt by the side of the road. TC mark

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