Buffy and Her Life of Many Colors: A tale of mental health, addiction and glitter.
My Name its Nicklaus, or it might be Buffy depending on the night, or it could be, Nate, Shelia, or Puppy Who. My life was not like most peoples, at least that’s the way I see it in my head. I lived in a world of make believe, spot lights, and the every watching public eye. This is my story.
I grew up a military brat, living most of my life in a small town of Louisiana called Haughton. I had the perfect American family, A high ranking Airforce Dad, a stay at home Christian Mom, and a brother just nine months younger than me. Had it not been for the fact that I was adopted and looked nothing like them you would think that we belonged on the front of a sears catalog.
Growing up, I struggled a lot in school. Never the class clown and always looking to learn more, I still was always 2nd best to my brother. He would bring home straight A’s without even trying. Me on the other hand would spend hours staring at spelling words, and never once be able to pass a spelling test. Math was another subject that just alluded me. My parents spent untold amounts of money, on touters, special classes, and nothing seemed to work.
My parents, always wanted to make sure I felt part of the family and would praise me for a D+ and a C’s when it came to my report card. They did this with love in their heart, because they knew what hard work I put in to achieving a “Below expectations” grade. But I knew the truth, I would see them scold my brother for getting a B, and it just reinforced in my mind that I was second best.
My Mom would make up fake spelling test to help me study, they were multiple choice and I was quick to learn the pattern that they would use to quickly grade them, and I would pass the test with flying colors. This would satisfy my dad, but my mom was a little quick and caught on and changed the order of the correct answers on my spelling test without me noticing.
I was caught red handed and broke down in tears. The only way I had to make it appear that I was not stupid, to my parents had been taken away.
This is when my mom decided to tell me the “truth” about why I had so much trouble with learning. She told me about my birth mother Terrie, and how she suffered from mental illness and addiction and they had to save me from her. She had done horrible things, including using a large array of drugs while pregnant with me. (I will never know the real truth about what really happened the 1st year of my life.)
This was my first exposure to what mental health and addiction was. It was something that made good people bad. Addiction was something that would make a women shoot drugs into her veins knowing that I was in her belly, and that this evil woman did this without caring that I was not going to be able to pass a spelling test and that I was going to grow up stupid.
An easy lesson to teach a 3rd grader, Mental Health equals bad person, addiction equals evil person. While this was a lesson that was taught in hopes that I would feel better about myself, which it did to begin with, it was going to soon turn into a lesson that would leads to confusion and self-hate, especially as my own mother, the one who taught me this lesson was soon to fight her own battle with addiction and mental health.
Terrie had also been the one to name me. Nathanael James Ray, a name that would prove to haunt me with cruel irony, as I grew older. See Nathanael is Hebrew for, a gift from God. How could someone take a gift from God and break it. A gift from god is something treasured, treated with care, not broken and given away. I was no gift from God, I was a burden.
When I entered the third grade, my family’s life got flipped upside down. My parents called my brother and I into the dining room and informed us that we had a brother and sister that we knew nothing about. They lived in Colorado and because their father had got arrested, they were going to have to come and live with us. This moment is when I saw a change in my mom, she was suddenly a different person, a person who as I grew into an adult would grow into some one that not only did I not like, but a person I feared.
I have no way of knowing what my new brother and sister’s life was like before I met them, and even if I did It would not be my story to tell. I do know how ever that the fights started as soon as they moved in. Dinner became a time that I feared, because it would always end in screaming. Soon it got so bad that my sister was sent to live with another relative. My brother stayed behind though and he continued to receive the wrath that was my mother’s rage.
Even to this day I’m not sure what was going on behind my mom’s eyes, one minuet she would be find and the next minuet she would snap, and my house became, what I can only call Hell on Earth. One thing was always on my side though, one thing was always my saving grace. Whenever my mom turned on me, all I had to do was turn on my new brother and her wrath would be redirected into his direction. I became a master of this art, I can clearly remember times when I felt the fire of my mom’s anger and I would say something, sometimes only a few words, that would revert her screaming to my brother’s direction, and I knew I was safe, for at least one more night.
When I hit middle school, that all changed, my brother who finally had enough of the torment moved out, and I no longer had a shield to protect me from the evil that lurked behind my mom’s blue eyes. When she came after me, she came for blood. While she did hit, me a few times it was mostly hours and hours of loud screaming insults, and downgrades that I had no way of escaping from.
The hardest part, was when my Mom and Dad would get into fights. My mom being no stranger to drama would even blow up for untold reasons in public places. At restaurants, In the mall, showing at the grocery store. It never seemed like she cared where she started the fight, but when it started every one was watching, and there was nowhere to hide.
Among the name calling, and screaming, my mom had another game she like to play when she would start these fights. She would decide that she was leaving my dad. She would always make sure he and I understood that it was for whatever reason my fault, then she would take my younger brother and leave. My dad would always try and reassure me that it was not my fault, but how could that be true? After all she took my younger brother, and left me. Over and over she did this, I soon realized that I was not her gift from god either I was just her burden.
This only got worse at I entered high school. My mom, always on the lookout for new ammunition, found a note where I told my friend that I was gay. Having a fag in the house really sparked the flames of my mom’s hate towered me. This is the 1st time I can point out and remember my own mental health making its self-known. While coming out during high school, in a small town in Louisiana was no cupcakes and kitty cats, it was the home life that scared the living hell out of me. It would start almost as soon as I got on the school bus to head home. A tingling right behind the belly button, the closer I got to home the larger this “tingling ball” grew. Soon it would be in my chest, and by the time I stepped off the bus and walked up our perfect drive way, and past or perfect cars, and into a perfect living room my heart would be beating so fast that I could hear it as a pounding. My leg would start bouncing as we set in the living room having small talk over the Little Debbie Cakes” that my mom would set out for us. Every second the tingling ball in my gut would grow, wondering, when the timer was going to go off. When this kind woman was going to turn into the dragon that I knew she was.
Sometimes it would be slow, my mom’s anger, the conversation would slowly turn cold and sour over a few minutes before it turned into a one sided screaming match about how awful of a son I was. Other times, there was no fuse at all, I walked in and it was as if Satan himself was waiting for me in the living room. I would just sit there; I had become an expert on how to hide in my own head. I would hear the words, and I would see her red face, but it was almost as if I had created another room inside of my own head. A room that I could hide in as I planned my escape.
I went to my school counselor and told her I wanted to graduate early, and she pointed me in the right direction. I was for sure that If I could just get out of this house that this constant feeling of “The Tingling Ball” that had taken permanent residence in my stomach would finally go away. I wanted to leave this hell house and feel safe for the 1st time in my life. So I took online classes, went to the local community college and earned credits in the theater program, and before I knew it I had enough credits to graduate and get the hell out of that house and off to college. No longer would I be that gift from God that nobody wanted. I was going to make it on my own
Once I got settled into my new dorm room, my safe place, I realized that I over looked a key factor in my plan of escape. A big college campus is not a place that a sixteen-year-old needs to go to feel safe. The “Tingly ball” had not been left at my child hood home, he had followed me across the state to collage and was always there reminding me that at any second my life was going to implode and everything was going to go wrong. Even though I knew that this was not the case, I was doing well in my studies, had made good friends, had a fun roommate, but for some reason I was in constant fear of something HUGE happening that would ruin everything.
My new roommate wanted me to join him and go to my 1st gay bar, even though I was only 16 he said that he could get me in. So we went to a bar in Monroe Louisiana, called Bangkok. It was a Tuesday night and the place was packed for a drag show. He got us a seat in the front row and asked what I wanted to drink. I being nervous as hell, leg shaking, the “Tingly Ball” had taken over my body in fear. I was ready to run out of that bar screaming, but he talked me into a Long Island Ice Tea because “It did not taste like Alcohol”. When he finally came back with my drink, after what seemed like an eternity, I took a huge gulp. He was right, it did not taste like alcohol, but even more important was that the “Tingly Ball” in my stomach checked out for the evening. I finally was enjoying myself, without fear, I was for the 1st time in what I thought was my Comfort Zone.
That night I had also witnessed something that amazed me. I saw my very first drag show. The hair, the jewelry, the attention that they demanded from the crowed, I was hooked, and with my theater backing it was only a matter of weeks before I was on that stage in a skimpy swim suite covered in rhinestones, going by the name of Buffy Bossea, drink in hand. After one semester of college I dropped out of college and moved down to New Orleans to become a star.
I will never forget, when my parents first came and visited me, we were sitting in my living room, I had made everyone drinks, for the parents some sweet sun tea, for the boyfriend a jack and coke, and for me a margarita full works. My dad looked over at my computer screen that was flashing pics of me in drag, (most of the pics I was wearing next to nothing) and he puffed out his chest in a proud fashion and said “About damn time you start looking at women like this, instead of that gay shit.” With a smile a glass of self-confidence I looked him square in the eye and said, “Dad that’s me.”
My dad just fell silent, my mom however walked over and looked at it, and turned to me, but for the 1st time in my life she did not go off, she did not scream she did not call names. She stood up and said well I guess If Patrick Swayze can do it in that one movie so can my little boy. My jaw dropped, this is not the women that I had grown up with. Little did I know that she had found the same trick I had and was able to silence her demon by pouring some vodka that she had stashed in her purse, into her sweet tea, without me nor my father knowing.
Soon after however, my mother ended up trying to take her life, I was called up to Shreveport to find her committed, and tied to a bed. Turns out my mom suffered from bipolar disorder. The evil dragon that I had come to fear as a child now has a name “Bipolar Disorder. She soon discovered that demons cannot be tamed by liquor, they can only be masked. It was a lesson that I would not learn for another ten years but one that almost killed her.
Not long after that, a storm came into my life called Katrina. I won’t go into the details of what the storm was like, you have all seen the documentaries and seen news stories every year as the anniversary rolls around. But I will tell you how the locals handled the situation. I will tell you what you did not see on TV. See I had not moved to “Just New Orleans” I had moved to the French Quarter. In a small apartment off of Royal and Gov Nickels. See people in The French Quarter have a different way of looking at things. Life is a party, Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll. Yes, we were surrounded by devastation and we had army jeeps and tanks rolling down our streets, but we were alive and that was all the reason to continue to party.
Lots of people left New Orleans, after the storm. Some we are not sure if they left or if they died, they just were gone. Some of those empty seats that we cheered to every night belonged to drag queens that were not coming back. This is something that a young want-to-be queen took notice of, I knew that those seats were going to need someone to fill them and I wanted it to be me. Now beside being pretty, and having a talent for a mic, I had not real talent. I could make every one laugh and turn every head when I walked into a bar, but I could not dance or preform to save my life. But I was in the right spot at the right time, and I started getting bookings everywhere and that’s when I met Stewart. He was a hot Leather daddy type, and he would watch me preform, and tip in tens and twenties but would always be gone before my show was over.
Then on Thanksgiving night, 2005 I just happened to be walking down St Louis street, In full high drag when I saw him stop into a gay pub that I liked to go to in my free time. I walked in and saw him at the other end of the bar and I walked over to him and said “HI I’m Buffy.” His response was “I know who you are, now sit down, shut up, and let me buy you a drink.”
Now I’m sure everyone reading this is seeing the red flags, that my young tipsy self was missing. While Liquor had been able to take away the “tingly ball” in my stomach away, it had also taken away any reason. Sometimes fear is a very powerful tool, that we need to use to survive, but I was so relieved that it had taken the demon away that I had not noticed it also had taken away some key surviving tools along with it.
After some small talk he and a few more drinks, he took me to his place and introduced me to meth. Its harmless he told me, just take a puff and you will see how much freedom it gives you. At that point I would have put whatever this Leather God, told me to put in my mouth, and so I did, and I was hooked.
Meth was different from liquor, it not only took away the demons, but it made you believe you were stronger than they were. There was nothing that could not touch me.
Soon me and Stewart were a couple, he would go to the bars with me, pull out my seat, carry in my drag, and treat me like a queen. While I was on stage working he was working the crowd and pushing his dope. He made sure I was high as a kite and I made sure he was able to get into all the drag clubs, on the arm of an entertainer, that way no questions would be asked.
At home was a different story though, Nate was trash in his eyes. What could Nate do for him? The answer was nothing. Nate could not get him into clubs, or in with the right people so Nate was free to be treated like trash. When Stewert needed money he could pimp me out, take me to the bath houses and make cash from me being used, and selling dope at the same time. But it was OK because, he was always keeping me high. My demons were gone, I was treated well as Buffy, and if Nate needed to go away then that’s what I would make happen. Nate, Nathanael, that gift from god…that burden needed to be thrown away once and for all.
I got a job at a retail store on bourbon st, as Buffy, started keeping my face and body shaved every day, and would not leave the house without at least some powder and gloss. This is what it took to be Stewart girl and I was going to make it happen.
What I failed to see was that Stewart did not love me, he was using me. But instead of noticing that he used meth, and the anarchy that was post Katrina New Orleans, to shape my mind to the point that I was now questioning my own gender. But I was so determined to see past that because I thought I was happy, I thought that because the “tingly ball” was no longer in stomach, and that is what happy what. Right.
Not too much later my front door was kicked in by the police. Stewart had been busted and instead of going down alone he was going to take me. I watched helplessly as they searched my apartment for the stash he had there. I was a good girl though; he had taught me well I knew to deny it even though being honest would most likely get me a better sentence. I would not “roll over” on Stewart because I loved him, even though he had done that very thing to me. I watched in horror as the cop picked up the tin can that held enough meth to get me a life sentence, but right before she opened it, she set it back down and walked out of the room.
After what seemed like hours, they finally gave up looking and assumed that I was telling the truth and left. I’m still not sure what happened that say, the cop not opening that tin, and the common sense that made me call my mom, to come get me, but within 24 hours I along with all of my belongings were safe back in my childhood home.
My mom watched over me as I went through withdraws, a chore that I cannot imagen. Cleaning bed sheets as a soiled myself, checking on me every 10 minutes to make sure I had not died on her. My mother had finally gotten her demons under control and it was not with liquor it was by seeking mental health treatment. Today I see it plain as day, but there was still such a stigma, and she still felt such shame that neither of us were ready to admit that I needed the same thing.
Over the next few years I still lived mostly as a woman, Buffy had become a shield, it was easy to be brave as a woman. After all, look at my mother she overcame her demons there must be some feminine power that would get me through this, well that and a martini slightly dirty.
I had beaten a meth addiction, and was doing just fine, sure I was in a constant struggle about my gender identity, but I could usually stop that internal argument with a stiff cocktail.
After a few years went by, Nate slowly regained strength and reclaimed my body, buffy was no longer needed, to keep me strong. I moved to Oklahoma, to grow as a man and while buffy was still inside to help from time to time (because believe me, sometimes the strongest man needs some feminine energy to get the job done right) it was mostly me running the show now.
In 2012 I ran for and captured the title of Oklahoma Mr. Leather, and it changed my life. I got to travel and see the country and it really showed me the power that was inside, and the things that I can accomplish.
In 2012 I created Kink Weekend OKC, a full weekend of Leather and education, I started holding down jobs, good jobs, making a good name for myself. When my friends talked about me as Nate, they did so with pride. I was finally at a point in my life where I should be happy.
But that monster had moved back in, with the good name came the stress not to mess up. There were now lots of eyes watching me waiting and hoping that I would fail. Misery likes company. The more that people said I was doing good, the more that “tingly ball” grew inside of me until I could no longer take it.
Drinking no longer made it go away, the nightmares, got worse and all I could do was drink until I passed out every night. It was the only way to silence the monster that was living in my head.
I had a DUI and that did not change my drinking habits, It just changed how I got to the bar. So many stories of being dragged out of the bar. So many times of not knowing how I got home. Many times of waking up not knowing who was in my bed with me. And the entire time this monster growing and eating at me, never happy, no drink was ever enough to make me fill calm.
I begged doctors to help me, but in Oklahoma, getting the help meant going to AA meetings. I tried the meetings and they did not help. I could not put into words what I was feeling. The drinking was not the problem, this growing “tingly ball” is what is causing all of this.
Finally, I started to land in the hospital on almost a weekly basis, with panic attacks. But most of the time it was with the smell of whisky on my breath so I was just shrugged off as another drunk. “Maybe one day he will go to a AA meeting, they would whisper.”
That was until I finally, had a doctor say that maybe I should see someone, just to talk.
I showed up for an appointment “just to talk” and out of nowhere I was pouring out all this information about my past and how I hated what I have become.
This therapist then said the magic words, “It sounds like you have some major anxiety issues that you have been looking to fight.”
There it was the “tingly ball” had a name, Anxiety.
From that point on I started to be treated like a patient of an illness and not as a drunk. I went through outpatient medical detox and was able to sleep a whole night without “passing out.” I had forgot what sleep was, true peaceful and warm sleep.
I started seeing a phycologist and she listened and even my craziest stories made sense and we were able to work on a plan to change my life, together. Today, I haven’t had a drink in over 3 1/2 years. It may not sound like a long time to you, but to me it’s a game changer. Just having a name for my demon, “Anxiety” gives me power to help defeat him. He is still there, and there are days that are not easy, but im no longer scared of him. That tingly little ball, is just that. I have the tools to fight him and I plan on winning.
With my new found clear mind, I found a new me. This was not the same me, that was afraid and needed a drink, or a drug to make me happy, and this new me needed a name. I was no longer going to live under that cursed name Nathanael, that gift from god non-sense. So I went to the court house and I had my name change officially to Nicklaus, which means “Victor” I was no longer a victim and refused to be one again. For my last name, I paid tribute to Buffy, the one who never left my side. She gave me a safe space in my mind to hide from my mother when I was a child. She gave me strength to survive a drug addiction, and an abusive partner. Even to this day, she is with me and gives me strength. That’s why I very proudly took her last name as my own, Bossea.
It’s remarkable the power of a name. Just knowing the name of the disease that took my peace of mind or the disease that turned my mother into a monster, made life bearable. But that same power has deep evil routs in the name that was given to me all those years ago when I was tossed aside in exchange for a life of drugs. I have come to terms with the fact that I am no gift from god, but I have also came to terms with the fact that I am no burden, at least not anymore.