GAIL CHORD SCHULER FINDS GILBERT BLYTHE (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES) IN BRENT SPINER
Around 1989 (married for four years), I lost myself into the Anne of Green Gables series with Megan Follows. Lonely in my marriage, I secretly longed for a husband like Gilbert Blythe.
Even though I wanted to wait a little longer, I relented, and became pregnant (within a week–around January 1, 1987).
I had morning sickness (intense nausea and some dry heaves) right away and 24/7 for four months during the first trimester (the first four months I had morning sickness–actually intense nausea and some dry heaves—24/7). The first trimester was one of the worst experiences of my life. So nauseated, I spent just about all of the first trimester in bed. For the first time in my life as a Christian, I was not in church three to four times a week, and truly felt I could die from the pregnancy. I forced myself to eat. The only thing I could tolerate was grapes. As a result of this experience, I strongly felt my own mortality. For the first time in my life, I felt my own mortality and understood better the sufferings of mankind. I no longer felt myself able to conquer anything by the sheer force of my will. I keenly felt my own limitations.
At our Canadian church I was judged for not attending all the services. I realized that before I had this experience, I probably would have been one of those who passed judgment on someone such as myself. I began to realize that much of what I’d been taught at church about righteousness and evil was false, and that moral standards I readily adopted from established church leaders, were perhaps false. For the first time, I began to think for myself about right and wrong.
By the middle of April 1987, I felt well enough to resume activities and worked out every day on my cross-country ski machine. I worked out on this machine for about a half hour a day, up until the day before labor.
My third trimester, during July and August 1987, because I began to feel frumpy, I got into a sewing binge and sewed myself maternity clothes. I made myself a bright yellow maternity skirt with a cotton material (because I always felt hot); and a cheerful and flowery, watercolor blended blouse of sheer and airy, cottony material. I always tried to look feminine.
I had prepared for the labor by reading books I’d checked out from the local library about labor methods and chose a modification of the Bradley method to prepare for the labor. Each time a contraction hit, I relaxed into pillows (that I brought from home). I maintained total relaxation with each contraction, and never uttered a peep through the entire labor–I was totally focused–until it was time to push. Though my baby was in posterior position, I only needed demoral, and the baby turned at the last minute (into anterior position).
I recall, my obstetrician (a Canadian physician) was about to go in with the forceps and said, “the baby just turned.” He heaved a sigh of relief, and with a final push, the baby came out. This fantastic doctor seemed quite impressed with how I handled my labor and that I chose an unconventional labor method that worked well for me.
By an odd twist of fate, within a year after our family moved away from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, this excellent doctor (trained at Harvard medical school for his continuing education), while he underwent a prostrate operation, died of general anesthesia.
In May 1988, about seven months after I delivered my son, I averaged about three hours of sleep a day for three weeks. I suffered from some stomach problems at this time, but overlooked them as trivial, not realizing that they indicated I was developing food allergies. Looking back, I believe I suffered from vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
Though I adored my son and thought him a real good baby, because I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t breast-feed him–the milk wouldn’t come.
In desperation, I went to my obstetrician in May 1988 (whom I trusted) and poured my heart out to him, broke down and cried, and said, “I can’t sleep.”
He looked at me with certainty. “You have postpartum depression.” Because his first wife committed suicide from postpartum depression (my friend Brigitte told me this), he probably felt I had postpartum depression. So he put me on an anti-depressant (Surmontil?). This worked for a couple weeks and my sleep returned.
But because of this, I was labeled with a mental illness and my church members condemned me. The pastor of the Canadian church I attended even recommended that I give up my son for adoption (because he and his wife couldn’t have children) and condemned my postpartum depression. He felt I was extremely ungrateful to have this problem when I was blessed with a child. I found out about this after we moved away from Michigan and lived in Florida.
Once diagnosed as a manic depressive (that turned out later to be incorrect), I never was the same. All I’d been taught by church leaders as a young lady about right and wrong, and what was spiritual and not spiritual, I began to question for the first time in my life. No longer satisfied with pat answers from my husband or church leaders, I began to rethink all I believed and to question all I’d been taught. It just didn’t make sense to me, that I, a devoted Christian, willing to die for my Lord and who only desired His will in all I did, would end up in a psychiatric hospital.
It seemed to me that all I’d been taught about what constitutes spirituality was false and that I needed to re-examine all I believed. I knew I wasn’t demon possessed and yet if I glibly accepted what I’d been taught by church leaders, the fact that I ended up in a psychiatric hospital indicated I was.
Something was false here and I no longer glibly accepted all I heard from church pulpits, my husband or from the Christian leaders of my past. I began to question everything and to form a new framework of morality, but still believed that Jesus Christ was my Savior and that the King James Bible was my absolute authority.
What I questioned were the interpretations of the Bible I’d been taught, and determined to know God’s opinion and not man’s. So I still read the Bible every day, but was not bound to interpret it in any particular manner, but decided to let the words stand alone, without man’s interpretations shading their meaning to me.
Before admission to the psychiatric hospital (even though I voluntarily admitted myself), I denied any truth in my life that contradicted the teachings of church leaders.
I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t sleep in 1987 and didn’t really feel depressed, but was willing to do anything to get some sleep. The anti-depressant seemed to help, so I was willing to put up with the mental illness label to get better. I decided to stay home and not work, to be a full-time mother and homemaker, though I did start a correspondence accounting program (one semester) that I didn’t finish. When the time came to take its semester final exam in Florida, so stressed out by child welfare agencies (the H.R.S. in Florida), I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I never took the final exam. But I did maintain a straight A average on all tests in this business program. But after my H.R.S. experience in Florida, I dropped out of the accounting program.
In June 1988, we flew down to Miami, my sleep problems returned, and I felt I was hallucinating (it may have been the anti-depressant) and so I decided to see a psychiatrist in Miami (while on this vacation). This psychiatrist diagnosed me with manic depression and my family decided to extend our stay in Miami, so I could voluntarily admit myself to a psychiatric hospital for three weeks and receive intensive treatment.
I brought my Bible with me to Coral Reef hospital and packed it with my things. I had never been in a psychiatric hospital before and recalled that I seemed the only normal person in there.
But I was totally compliant and a good patient and didn’t give anyone any trouble. We attended group therapy sessions where patients talked about their lives and the stresses and experiences in our lives.
During one group therapy session, we were encouraged to open up about how we felt about our lives, some fellow patients (diagnosed as schizophrenic) lashed out at me as some religious person who wanted to impose my beliefs on others. They said, “We find Gail offensive. She just wants to preach at us about her religion, and thinks she’s better than us just because of her religion.”
But this wasn’t the case at all, and they had me all wrong.
The social worker who listened to me disagreed with them and made a very perceptive comment. “I get the impression from listening to Gail that she is examining and questioning her beliefs, and reexamining her life. She’s searching and questioning and growing into a different direction. This is a good thing and she’s in the process of growth.” This social worker was right on target.
The lithium and anti-psychotic seemed to help and, grateful for sleep, I went along with it. I really believed at this time I suffered from manic depression, because the medicine for it made me sleep.
After my three week stint in the psychiatric hospital, my family returned to Michigan. But my church did not understand me at all, and assumed I was demon possessed (or influenced by demons) to have this problem. This diagnosis with a mental illness and the condemnation of my church, caused me to begin watching Star Trek: The Next Generation every week from a weak Michigan channel with a lot of snow on it, and began for me a search to explore my creative side, that my church and husband didn’t seem to understand.
I also became mesmerized with the WonderWorks production of Anne of Green Gables and its sequels with Megan Follows and mentioned to Brent in my letters to him later (when I started writing him) how I liked this production. It showed on a local public television station and I watched it with a lot of snow, because we only had rabbit ears for television reception.
I longed to have a lover in my life like Gilbert and because we lived on the Canadian border and went to a Canadian church, I felt a real identity with the Canadian characters. Gilbert seemed someone with outstanding intellect, feeling, depth and maturity; who’d understand and appreciate my artistic soul and my many thoughts that had no soulmate. Gilbert became a physician and married the main character, writer Anne Shirley.
When I wrote Brent (1990 and later), I didn’t tell him that I lost myself in Anne of Green Gables to relieve my loneliness, I just told him I liked the production, and thought it well done.
In the summer of 1989, on our way down to Florida to live in Miami, our family visit my dad (a retired airline captain) and my paternal grandmother, who lived with my dad in his North Carolina (near the Atlantic Ocean) home.
My dad’s large, custom-built home, located in a secluded, expensive community, had showcase windows from which you could see large homes and their green expanses across the water and the portions of the Atlantic ocean that fingered their way to my dad’s back yard. His yacht floated in the fingers of the ocean that rippled just off his yard where gulls squawked and fluttered about. Quiet, as I’d always remembered him, he maintained a polite and respectful demeanor. At that time, I wasn’t sure what to believe about him, and approached him with neutrality.
In the videos I saw of myself from our camcorder (that I no longer have), so doped by the psychiatric medications I took, I walked like a zombie around my father’s North Carolina house and yard. My psychiatric medicines caused me to retain the weight I gained from my pregnancy, but I’ve never been heavy. The medications killed my color and personality, because I was not a manic depressive/manic type (as diagnosed by my psychiatrist) and didn’t need to be on psychiatric medications.
My paternal grandmother (in her upper eighties) had deteriorated a lot since I last saw her around 1983. Because of osteoporosis, she had a hump back and needed a wheelchair everywhere she went. And she had suffered from some mini-strokes. But, as I’d remembered her from my childhood, she still had her sweet laugh and modesty about herself and never criticized anyone.
In 1989, I lost myself in others’ artistic visions, like Anne of Green Gables, in order to “find myself” and I had a subconscious longing to contribute something in writing or in creative endeavors to the world that would add beauty and resonance, because I sensed a real dearth in great artistic endeavors (a real dearth in great films, great books, great music –especially after around 1945). I wanted this to change, and thought perhaps I could be an influence to add some great works of art into the world’s repertoire of artistic achievements.
I’ve always appreciated great artistic achievement and felt saddened that so few artists in the past fifty years have created any artistic endeavors with true resonance and greatness. It seemed the artistic endeavors of the nineteenth century and from previous time periods, outdid any artistic endeavors from the twentieth century, with the exception of artists like Lucy Maud Montgomery (who almost belonged to the nineteenth century).
This seemed to me such a tragedy and something needed to be done about it, because the world suffered a great loss because of the lack of greatness in twentieth century artistic achievements. I had a subconscious goal (in my early thirties) to create a work of art that would equal or excel the artistic endeavors of great artists before the twentieth century. Because I did not enjoy twentieth century writers, my models were not twentieth century artists (too shallow for me). I studied (and later, from age 34 and onwards, decided to write) what I loved to read, and I loved to read Leo Tolstoy and Charles Dickens (my favorites).
Later in my mid-thirties and afterwards, when I wrote, I borrowed what I loved from contemporary artists (like Colleen McCollough) who seemed masters in certain aspects of their writing, but most of my writings were inspired by writers who lived before the twentieth century.
It has never been my goal to become a wealthy writer, but to become a great writer. And it mattered more to me that I felt my writing was great, I could care less whether popular opinion felt my writing was great.
I wanted to equal or excel writers like Tolstoy and Dickens–my models. Later, as I wrote, I’d go back and study Dickens’s techniques over and over. I especially loved his ending to David Copperfield and read it over and over to study his style. My goal was to write something that I’d love to read, and I loved to read works that had the quality of nineteenth century writers, but dealt with contemporary issues. I could find no works like this.
This disturbed me greatly, that I couldn’t locate on television, in the movies or at the bookstore, works like Anne of Green Gables or David Copperfield. Because this is what I’d love to read, I yearned to create works like this. This is what I wished I could find at the bookstore.
Saddened by this dearth of great artistic endeavors and disgusted by what I glimpsed from New York Times bestseller novels (shallow works without resonance and greatness), I determined to correct this void, to write something of true greatness– not some shallow book that would die away and be of no value after twenty or more years. I never wrote for money. My goal was to create something lasting and to create a real treasure in literature.
I wanted to write a great and stirring work of art that could be left as a monument and would linger in people’s hearts as the writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Charles Dickens and Tolstoy did for me. I pondered with regret about this void of stirring and moving artistic visions in twentieth century writers, and felt that more quality work (like the nineteenth century writers) were needed in the world’s repertoire of artistic works.
Perhaps I could make this contribution, because it didn’t look like any other artists’ works measured up. I believed I was a born writer, who only needed to find a way to unearth my talent and let it grow.
I felt my marriage forced me to deny my true self, and that my church and family did not encourage me to use my real talents, that they condemned my strengths (or found them threatening), that they had no appreciation for this passion that I felt about soul-stirring artistic visions. I began to feel isolated and lonely and that my thoughts and philosophies (most condemned by my church) needed a soulmate.
My church and family condemned Star Trek as a demonic New Age television show. But I noticed the Data character (Brent Spiner) and lost myself in this character, as someone who could understand and not be threatened by my “forbidden” thoughts.
During this year, after I recovered from a cold, I lost my singing voice, and had problems with my voice. I suspected my psychiatric medications messed up my voice. I noticed that the only psychiatric medication that seemed to help me with my sleep was the one that knocked me out the most (the sleeping pill), but I took the entire regimen the psychiatrist assigned to me (lithium and trilafon).
The loss of my singing voice was a real heartbreak to me, because this was a real means of expression for me, and I truly had a beautiful voice. An ear, nose and throat specialist at Homestead Air Force Base (around 1989) told me I could never sing again, that I had spasmodic dysphonia. This loss of my singing voice, that I’d always taken for granted (I thought I’d sing beautifully till the day I died), made me feel keenly my own mortality, weakness and my intense for a real and vital relationship with God. No longer satisfied with “status quo” Christianity, I was stretching my wings and ready to explore new and forbidden vistas.
I believe, as part of their attempt to destroy me and my influence, the Jesuits took away my voice. People loved to hear me sing. On this October 2006, after years of natural medicine, much of my original singing voice has returned, though it will never be as it was when I was a teenager.
My top priority in the 1990s was to learn how to write and the little spare money I had, went to writing books, writing magazines and writing software and to research for my novel Silver Skies.
But fashion was a side interest that I had fun with.
After I read Color Me Beautiful, I had fun with colors, and eventually learned about my clothing personality. In the 1990s you could easily find Color Me Beautiful color consultants at J.C. Penney’s. It was from one of these color consultants (1990) that I learned I was a winter in coloring.
In 1989, we moved to my home town of Miami, Florida. While we were stationed in Miami, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida diagnosed me with spasmodic dysphonia and told me I could never sing again. I became distressed when, it appeared, that the medications I used to help my sleep, were causing health problems for me. I also noticed that my tongue began to quiver. This greatly saddened me (that I lost my singing voice), because I lost one of my venues for artistic expression. I determined to find other ways to express my creative and artistic soul; so, to compensate for the loss of my singing voice, I transferred my creative passions to piano playing and creative writing. I had a tubal ligation (under a anesthetic given to me in my lower spine–epidural) at the Homestead Air Force Base hospital.
I continued to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, and after watching their second season “Pen Pals” episode during a rerun (August 1989), where Data rescued a little girl from the death of her planet, when I observed Brent Spiner’s expression as he contemplated whether to rescue this little girl from her dying planet, and observed in him compassion, a greatness that refused to be small, one who could reach out and submerge his own safety to embrace and console suffering, who rallied his energies to alleviate pain and injustice, who denied his feelings to minister and care for another (when he let the little girl leave him to go back to her planet), who acknowledged and dealt with the suffering of innocents–when I saw this in Brent Spiner as he portrayed Data in “Pen Pals”, I could not forget him. I sensed that the actor himself had these traits.
In this, my brilliant perception was correct.
This dream from my youth (to have a hero for a lover or a soul mate) has never left me, it comes from Catherine the Great, who needed to sense greatness in her lovers and men friends.
After I saw that episode, I had a new mission– to find myself. I knew there was a part of me that needed recognition, that was dying, that needed awakening. So a new obsession came over me and I went to the public library, found a Paramount studios address and mailed them a letter to ask if it was possible to write Brent Spiner.
I received a reply from Richard Arnold (Paramount archivist and public relations person) and learned that there were fan clubs and other ways to get information about Brent. Richard suggested I peruse the stores that sold comic books and magazines, and that there I’d find information about Star Trek Fan clubs and other items that might interest me. From one of these stores, I bought a Starlog magazine (that I hadn’t even heard of until this time), I learned about Melody Rondeau’s Data Entries (San Jose, California) and subscribed to her Data Entries.
Because I included a gospel tract in my letter to Melody, I learned she was a Christian like myself. Melody and I started a correspondence around early 1990. In my first letter to her I asked her some questions about Brent and she answered them. She told me that Brent in early 1990 was single, had no children, was forty one, and that those who knew him claimed he had a charming and very witty personality. In 1990, when I wrote her and was first interested in Brent, I was thirty two. When Brent wrote me a letter (August 1990), I shared the letter with her, but requested she not mention this in Data Entries. In all my letters that she published in Data Entries, I requested that she change my name to a pen name. Melody chose the pen name Gloria Monroe for me, because she published all my letters, and left out parts of my letters to her that I asked her not to publish.
As a Data Entries letter writer (1990 to about 1993), I offered my opinions about Brent and some of the Star Trek: The Next Generation shows, and did not want it known to the public that Brent and I communicated with each other, so I chose to use a pen name. I considered it tacky at the time to publicize one’s private life or to mention that Brent had called me and said, “I want to rape you.”
I knew the public would not understand Brent or would think me crazy if I claimed Brent said this to me, so I remained mute on this subject in my letters to Melody. Because Brent and I communicated with each other, I chose to use a pseudonym (because I disclosed a little about Brent in my letters to Melody). To me, the pseudonym was necessary, because Melody published all my letters in her fanzine (little fan magazine) Data Entries. In order to protect Brent, when Brent got a wiretap onto my phone (January 1994), I stopped writing Melody.
When Melody published my teleplay “Lal” in Data Entries (1993), I chose the pen name Maria Taylor (after the name of missionary physician Hudson Taylor’s first wife). I always longed to have a husband who had the heart and soul of a Hudson Taylor.
I shared my thoughts with Brent through his Paramount Star Trek fan club address, and wrote him totally transparent letters, where I bared my soul to him (all that I truly believed–not what I was “supposed to” believe), and included my Bible beliefs, all my political beliefs and my thoughts about life and about everything. Brent became the first man to whom I bared everything I thought and believed, whether sinful or not.
In the letters I wrote him in 1989 and 1990 from Miami, I gave Brent my phone number, and told him to feel free to call me if he ever needed to talk, though I didn’t expect him to call. In the first letters I mailed him, I included a photo of myself, with my family as we stood together for a family photo on the front lawn of our Miami duplex. I wore a red (totally modest) church dress with a fake pearl necklace and huge glasses (far too big for my face) in the photo, and my facial expression was soft and feminine (womanly).
I never sent him any immodest photos of myself, but always dressed in my photos to him like a Christian lady should dress, and even mailed him Christian gospel tracts that explained to him how to accept Christ as his Savior. I never encouraged more than friendship, and let him know up front I was married and a born again Christian.
About one month after I first started writing him in September 1989 from Miami, I recall that a new thing happened on my phone about two or three times a month. The phone would ring at my Cutler Ridge, Florida duplex, and I’d pick it up and say, “Hello?” Pause. “Hello?” There’d be total silence on the other end, and whoever it was, didn’t talk, so I hung up on them.
This never happened on my phone before. I thought perhaps it was Brent, but dismissed the thought as ridiculous, and completely forgot about the phone calls after they happened.
Brent tells me (via computer/satellite brain communications) that he was the silent caller on my Miami phone from about October 1989 to May 1991. After May 1991, right after I moved to Seattle, he was no longer silent. Apparently, in May 1991, this silent caller decided to speak and his first words to me were, “I want to rape you.”
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