Love, Betrayal, Sex And Ghosts: 27 Incredible True Stories From 2022

From haunted houses to cheating husbands, here are a few of our favorite essays published on HuffPost Personal in the past year.
Authors TJ Butler (left), Bill McKinley (center), and Kelsey Smoot (left)
Authors TJ Butler (left), Bill McKinley (center), and Kelsey Smoot (left)
Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: TJ Butler/Ricardo Castro/Travis Geter

When we launched HuffPost Personal in 2018, we were thrilled to finally have a department that features real people writing about their real experiences. From sharing incredible triumphs to detailing devastating heartbreak to relaying the hilarious, unexpected and sometimes just plain strange parts of life, the hundreds of essays we now publish on HuffPost Personal each year offer readers the chance to discover others’ unbelievable stories and the profound potential to learn about what someone else has been through in their own words and how it’s changed them.

Here are some of our favorite stories from 2022. If you have a compelling story to tell and would like us to consider it for publication on HuffPost Personal, you can find out what we’re looking for here and send us a pitch.


My Wife Of 52 Years Just Died. My Grief Is So Overwhelming, I Can Barely Cope.

By Ronald Paxton

"I believe a life is measured by the footprints one leaves behind," writes Ronald Paxton, whose wife, Diane, died in September. "Hers are imprinted all over my heart and the hearts of many others."
"I believe a life is measured by the footprints one leaves behind," writes Ronald Paxton, whose wife, Diane, died in September. "Hers are imprinted all over my heart and the hearts of many others."
Courtesy of Ronald Paxton

It’s never a good thing when the emergency room staff know you by name. Diane had been experiencing gastrointestinal issues for some time, and had visited the ER 27 times in the past year for nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Over a nine-month period, her gastroenterologist performed two colonoscopies and an endoscopy. He finally came up with a diagnosis of arteriovenous malformations. “Don’t worry,” he said, “there’s no sign of cancer. Most people with this condition can lead a normal life.” In Diane’s case, he was wrong ― dead wrong.


My Husband Sent Me A Seemingly Innocent Text. It Led Me To Discover He’d Been Cheating For Years.

By Dr. Samantha Gray

Three days before Valentine’s Day 2018, I discovered my husband of 13 years was cheating on me. Just 72 hours later, I participated in a student-led Valentine’s Day Q&A panel at the university where I teach as a psychologist with interests in social technologies.

Ironically, the students wanted the panel to talk about healthy relationships and love. I didn’t experience the panel as painful, but I still have no idea how I got through that event other than the protection provided by being in a state of shock.


I Gained 70 Pounds During COVID. Here’s What Happened On My First Day Back In The Office.

By Emily McCombs

"I want everyone else navigating this experience to know that they are not alone, and they are not any less valuable than they were before they gained weight," writes HuffPost Personal deputy editor Emily McCombs.
"I want everyone else navigating this experience to know that they are not alone, and they are not any less valuable than they were before they gained weight," writes HuffPost Personal deputy editor Emily McCombs.
Lourdes Avila Uribe

Given all the things that have changed in the past two years of life under COVID, my body is almost certainly among the least important. But that it has changed is undeniable.

When I started to hear people talking about the “COVID 15,” referring to the widespread phenomenon of quarantine weight gain, I thought it was cute because I had already gained more like 40 pounds.

Now, two years into a pandemic that drastically changed everything about the way we live, I’m estimating that number is closer to 70.


This Is What It’s Like To Not Have Any Friends Who Are Your Same Race

By Miun Gleeson

Many Korean Americans have had the comfort of community to weather the assaults on our identity. The heightened anti-Asian rhetoric and violence of the past two years has only cemented those bonds ― the salve of togetherness in our otherness. It’s been a frightening time to look like us, but much of the hand-wringing and crying has been a communal exercise with family and friends who have the shared context of treading this specific body of water. There is a fellowship to fall apart together. For most of us.

But for me ― a Korean American without any Korean friends ― it has been an incredibly lonely experience.


If You Think My Pronouns Are Optional, We Can’t Keep Being Friends

By Kelsey Smoot

"For a while, I flinched when I was misgendered but said nothing," Kelsey Smoot writes. "Recently, though, I’ve begun pushing back: 'You’ll have to do better' is my new refrain."
"For a while, I flinched when I was misgendered but said nothing," Kelsey Smoot writes. "Recently, though, I’ve begun pushing back: 'You’ll have to do better' is my new refrain."
Travis Geter

Lately, I’ve been embroiled in what feels like constant conversations about pronouns. The wrong ones. The right ones. The preferred ones. Hint: That third category is defunct.

As a nonbinary trans person who uses they/them/theirs pronouns as my terms of address, I suppose I should be celebrating this influx of discourse on the proper usage of pronouns. Truthfully, I’m exhausted.


One Of My Students Asked If I’d Stand Between Them And A Gunman. Here’s What I Said.

By Amanda Mayes

“Ms. Mayes? If a gunman came in here, would you protect us? Would you stand between us and the gunman?”

It was about two months into my third long-term substitute teaching position at my high school alma mater.


My Family Hid The Haunting In Our Home From Me For Years. Then I Found These Photos.

By Jessica Moffitt

"One night, my grandparents retired to their bedroom upstairs only to find their sheets torn and their bed sliced apart," Jessica Moffitt writes of this photo from Nov. 1, 1988.
"One night, my grandparents retired to their bedroom upstairs only to find their sheets torn and their bed sliced apart," Jessica Moffitt writes of this photo from Nov. 1, 1988.
Courtesy of Jessica Moffitt

When you’re brought up in a household suffocating in secrets, you learn to keep the silence. Or maybe the silence keeps you. You might not learn the difference until it’s almost too late.

My grandmother constantly warned my brothers and me never to speak about anything we witnessed in our home. She always delivered this warning in the trembling, fragile voice of a plea.


I Auditioned At A Strip Club. Then I Found Out What I’d Have To Do To Get The Job.

By Penda Smith

A little over three months ago, my friend Diamond, her friend, and I showed up to audition at a strip club in Florida. I was a nervous wreck ― the promoter made it clear that girls who did not “look up to par” would be sent home immediately. Looking up to par meant that our nails, hair, and makeup were done, our underarms and bikini areas were waxed, and we were each wearing an alluring two-piece.

When we got to the backroom, my anxiety dissipated as I looked in the mirror. I saw a beautiful Black woman staring back at me. I put on a red two-piece, fluffed out my Afro, reapplied my lip gloss, and waited for my turn to audition.


I Had My Breasts Removed. I Didn’t Realize It Would Affect Me The Way It Did.

By Jaime Lazich

"Every day, before I hop into the shower, I look at myself in the mirror and smile," writes Jaime Lazich, pictured in their apartment after top surgery.
"Every day, before I hop into the shower, I look at myself in the mirror and smile," writes Jaime Lazich, pictured in their apartment after top surgery.
Courtesy of Jaime Lazich

“That’s … awesome,” I said, looking into the huge floor-to-ceiling mirror in my surgeon’s office and seeing my new chest for the first time.

I was at my first post-op appointment, three days after my top surgery. I was struck by the normality of my chest. It felt so familiar, a seamless accompaniment to the rest of me. My chest was there the whole time, waiting to be uncovered under the weight of what was piled on top. Like excavating a fossil in the earth. There it was. There I am.


I Discovered My 11-Year-Old Patient Was Pregnant. Here’s What I Knew I Had To Do.

By Dipti S. Barot

It was my first year in practice doing bread-and-butter primary care. Sophia’s mom had brought her in for stomach pain. When I got to her menstrual history, her mom said Sophia had gotten her period but then it had stopped. I reassured her and said sometimes at the start of menstruation, there can be some irregularity and that is not uncommon at all. The mother then left the room and it was just me and Sophia.


I Was One Of The Most Famous Pop Stars In The World. No One Knew The Secret Pain I Hid.

By Darren Hayes

"I was deeply unhappy, barely containing secrets that would soon devastate me emotionally and send me to the brink of suicide at the height of my fame," writes Darren Hayes, pictured performing in Melbourne in 2000.
"I was deeply unhappy, barely containing secrets that would soon devastate me emotionally and send me to the brink of suicide at the height of my fame," writes Darren Hayes, pictured performing in Melbourne in 2000.
Martin Philbey via Getty Images

To the casual observer, I appeared confident, full of swagger with my vaguely ’70s blow wave and a blue-black dye job that could rival Elvis in his prime. But my bravado was a carefully crafted persona, built to protect me from years of bullying at school, denial and shame about my sexuality, and a mask to hide the rapidly increasing depression that would soon become overwhelming.


My Best Friend Disappeared From My Life Without A Trace. I’m Still Trying To Find Out What Happened.

By Stephanie Elliot

The last email I sent to her was a simple note:

Looking for you. That’s all.

This is a love story of sorts, but not in the way you think it might be. A story of how we met, how our relationship grew over 15 years and how I lost her. She was my first internet-turned-real-life friend.


My Gentle, Intelligent Brother Is Now A Conspiracy Theorist And His Beliefs Are Shocking

By Sue Muncaster

"While other family members refuse to engage, I’m triggered into a primordial rage by the videos he texts me 'because he loves me and wants to help me wake up before it’s too late,'" writes Sue Muncaster (center), pictured with her little brother (in the green coat) and the rest of their family in 1969.
"While other family members refuse to engage, I’m triggered into a primordial rage by the videos he texts me 'because he loves me and wants to help me wake up before it’s too late,'" writes Sue Muncaster (center), pictured with her little brother (in the green coat) and the rest of their family in 1969.
Courtesy of Sue Muncaster

Last April, my sister-in-law texted me to warn me that my brother was heading, unannounced, to my doorstep in Idaho, where I care for our elderly father. I knew he believed “everyone on the planet who received the vaccine will be dead in a few years,” but I had no idea of the depth of his fantastical beliefs.


I Was A Virgin At 59. I Chose A Controversial Way To Have Sex — And I Couldn’t Be Happier.

By Leah Shefoe

I had my first date when I was 25 years old. The guy was someone I’d shared a class with in college. We had a chance meeting and chatted for a few minutes, and he asked me out. After seeing a movie, we drove to a park with a view of the moonlit river.

I liked this man, but I tensed up. He put his arm around me, drew me close, kissed my neck and stroked my hair. I froze. He whispered to me to relax, and I wanted to, but by the time he kissed my lips, I was trembling so much that he stopped and drove me home. I never heard from him again.


I’m Biracial, But Rejected My Blackness For Years. Here’s What Convinced Me To Stop Passing For White.

By Eleanor Beaton

"Anything that drew attention to me seemed to warrant verbal racial abuse (such as a sports or academic award)," writes Eleanor Beaton (left), pictured with her mother.
"Anything that drew attention to me seemed to warrant verbal racial abuse (such as a sports or academic award)," writes Eleanor Beaton (left), pictured with her mother.
Photo Courtesy of Eleanor Beaton

The school bus screeched to a halt. My mother, a Black Fijian woman who proudly embraced her natural ’fro, was waiting for me at the bus stop.

“Bye, n***a,” another kid said loudly, as I got up from my seat.


This What It’s Like Going To The Gynecologist When You’re Black, Trans And Live In Texas

By KB Brookins

I am 26, living in the middle of the shit show that is Texas politics, and the number of laws that criminalize me being Black, trans, and able to give birth are mounting up higher than my 5-foot, 9-inch frame. I am making the brave choice to live in a time when many people in power would rather me not. I haven’t gotten a Pap smear in years due to a lack of health insurance, time, or the spoons to go through with the process, and I maybe want kids someday. So I’m going to the gynecologist to know my options.


Women Pay Me To Teach Them How To Give Great Head. (And Their Boyfriends Thank Me.)

By Bill McKinley

"Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught women (and a few men) how to give world-class head while also becoming self-empowered and having a blast," writes Bill McKinley.
"Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught women (and a few men) how to give world-class head while also becoming self-empowered and having a blast," writes Bill McKinley.
Photo by Ricardo Castro, ricardocastrophoto.com

Whatever I’ve called my classes over the past 20 years, I’ve taught women (and a few men) how to give world-class head while also becoming self-empowered and having a blast.

It started in 2002, when I was acting at a major regional theater.


We Didn’t Say ‘Gay’ At My High School. It Nearly Cost Me My Life.

By Noah Michelson

I’ve been gay since the second I sauntered out of my mom at St. Luke’s Hospital in July 1978. Not just gay ― gay gay. The kind of gay that people would whisper about. The kind of gay that people would worry about. The kind of gay that I could do nothing about. And for the first four or five years of my life, the kind of gay that I didn’t ever think to think about because it was just who I was and I still didn’t know I needed to hate or hide it.


I’m A Trans Man. Here’s What I Risked For The Chance To Get My Wife Pregnant With My DNA.

By James Bennett

"I struggled through ... the discomfort of being the only male-identified patient in an all-female fertility clinic," writes James Bennett, pictured preparing one of two nightly injections required during the second week of the IVF cycle.
"I struggled through ... the discomfort of being the only male-identified patient in an all-female fertility clinic," writes James Bennett, pictured preparing one of two nightly injections required during the second week of the IVF cycle.
Courtesy of James Bennett

“Your eggs will be scrambled,” the doctor told me dismissively as she handed me a pamphlet on egg freezing options. I was 25, terrified of what was next, yet eager to begin my transition from female to male. I was two months out from top surgery, a double mastectomy to remove my breasts, and had been painstakingly weighing this decision for years. My gender was wrong, and I had to fix it no matter the costs.


Yes, Fat Asians Exist ― And I’m One of Them

By Jenn Meylan

My appearance confuses everyone, Taiwanese and Americans alike. And it’s not just because of my skin tone. It’s also because I’m fat, and I’ve been so to varying degrees my entire life.

Despite my terracotta skin and black hair, my body’s rounded shape makes me look decidedly un-Asian to casual observers. Stereotypical “Asians” are supposed to be skinny and curveless. I’m definitely not that.


I Dated My Camp Boyfriend For 3 Summers. Years Later, His Sister Found Me — And We Fell In Love.

By Nikki Weiss-Goldstein

"After a month worth of texts, emails and late night chats, it felt like something else was happening," writes Nikki Weiss-Goldstein (left). Jill is pictured in the center, and on the right is Matt with the author at Camp Nock-A-Mixon circa 1983.
"After a month worth of texts, emails and late night chats, it felt like something else was happening," writes Nikki Weiss-Goldstein (left). Jill is pictured in the center, and on the right is Matt with the author at Camp Nock-A-Mixon circa 1983.
Courtesy of Nikki Weiss-Goldstein

I joined Facebook in 2008 with curiosity, searching and scrolling through names of the past to see what had become of friends I once knew, discover who peaked in high school, and find out which former nerd turned into a hot thirst trap as an adult.

Not long after, I got a notification: “You have 1 new message from Jill Goldstein.”

“Hi. Is this Nicole Schlenger from Camp Nock-A-Mixon circa 1982? If so, a warm hello from your first boyfriend Matt and his little sister Jill.”


I Went To A Brothel With My Boyfriend. It Was Nothing Like What I Expected.

By Melissa Duge Spiers

When I met a lover who knew his way around a paid hookup ... a whole new possibility presented itself. Rod and I headed to the brothel outside Reno, Nevada, to celebrate my upcoming birthday. And it was not at all what I expected.


I Posed For A Nude Centerfold In My 20s. I Was Elated, Until My Co-workers Found Out.

By TJ Butler

"A centerfold was glamorous and important, two things I believed would somehow transform me," TJ Butler writes.
"A centerfold was glamorous and important, two things I believed would somehow transform me," TJ Butler writes.
Photo Courtesy Of TJ Butler

I did my first nude photo shoot a month after I turned 18 and aged out of the foster care system. I circled an intriguing ad in the back of a free weekly paper: Nude model wanted. I called. I didn’t consider that it could be dangerous, nor did I tell anyone where I was going.


My Great-Grandpa Killed My Great-Grandma Giving Her An Abortion On Their Kitchen Table

By Linda Black

In 1919, my 7-year-old grandmother was startled awake in the early hours by her father. “Come say goodbye to your mother,” he told her. He brought her and her siblings into the kitchen, where their mother lay dying on the kitchen table. The room, table, and her mother’s lower half were awash with her blood. This is the only memory my grandmother had of her mother. Any positive memories were shocked from her system in that moment.


I Took My White Husband’s Last Name. I Didn’t Realize How It Would Affect The Rest Of My Life.

By Allison Shiozawa Miles

"If I didn’t adopt my husband’s surname, I’d be branded the worst kind of F-word in a conservative community: feminist," writes Allison Shiozawa Miles, pictured on her wedding day.
"If I didn’t adopt my husband’s surname, I’d be branded the worst kind of F-word in a conservative community: feminist," writes Allison Shiozawa Miles, pictured on her wedding day.
Photo Courtesy of Allison Shiozawa Miles

I didn’t want to change my last name. I dragged my feet as a young 21-year-old bride, waging an internal battle between my desire to maintain my identity with the desire to embrace my new husband, which, tradition insisted, included his name.

For months after our wedding, I fought the decision, playfully suggesting that my new husband take my surname, Shiozawa. But the idea of a white man taking a Japanese surname when I had three brothers to carry it on — as though that would be the only valid reason to consider it — seemed absurd to everyone else. Never mind that my white mom and sisters-in-law have dutifully taken on a Japanese name without a second thought.


My Son Asked Me How Two Men Have Sex. My Reaction Surprised Me.

By Emily McCombs

I am very much a parent who says gay, because my son’s sexual orientation (and potentially, gender identity) has yet to be revealed to me, and it’s imperative to me that he knows I will love and support him no matter who he turns out to be attracted to.

So, the other night, when he asked me if two men can have sex together, I had no problem telling him enthusiastically: “Of course they can!” It’s when he asked me HOW they do it that things got hairy.


I’m Deaf And I Have ‘Perfect’ Speech. Here’s Why It’s Actually A Nightmare.

By Rachel Zemach

Everywhere I go, people compliment me and say they wouldn’t have known I was Deaf if I hadn’t told them. They say it kindly, but it’s like they’re giving me a cupcake without realizing there’s a razor blade inside it.

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