Many people have had a toxic ex. Most have been lucky enough to avoid an ex who fabricated medical paperwork in order to fake having cancer.
In that regard, Vicki Gunvalson has been very unlucky.
In this video, she's talking about hearing from fans who've been through the same thing —
"The truth always comes out," Vicki says optimistically.
"Karma is a b–ch, baby," she adds with a smile.
She is speaking about her own experience with Brooks Ayers, who dated her for four years and ended up faking cancer, chemo, and chemo symptoms.
She is also speaking about the experiences that others have had — experiences that eerily mirror her own.
Dirty John is true crime anthology series based upon a podcast of the same name, and it tells a very similar story to Vicki's.
"Well, I've gotten a lot of letters from people," Vicki shares, before specifying: "Women, mostly women."
Vicki says that these letters were "saying what a sociopath, what a narcissistic man is."
While buzzwords like sociopath can lose thier meaning or be used to demonize people with mental illness, she is speaking of toxic manipulators.
Vicki says that these letters spoke of their struggles "and what they experienced, and our stories were exactly the same."
"The love letters, the flowers, the ‘Baby, we got this, they’re the enemy,’ you know," Vicki says.
That practice, known as "love bombing," can be used as a weapon to manipulate a victim and ot mask a lack of genuine affection.
Vicki acknowledges that Brooks was "really shielding me from my safe people which was my daughter, which was my cast members."
These, she says, were people "who loved me."
"And I didn't see it as that," Vicki admits.
"My daughter would have probably really hurt him if he'd kept pushing into my life," Vicki says.
Vicki is still awed by the sheer scope of how common this can be.
"But the amount of letters I received from people, emails, and letters in the mail," Vicki says.
All of these were "from people that have gone through what I went through …"
That shows how common this sort of thing can be.
This is probably why the Dirty John podcast was so popular that it's becoming a Bravo series — with a companion docuseries on Oxygen.
"Dirty John, that is my life," Vicki laments. "He portrayed he was somebody he wasn’t."
"That happened to me, and we’re intelligent women," she says, referring to herself and to other women.
"It happened to me with my eyes wide open," Vicki says.
To be clear, victims are never to blame. They're not stupid or deserving of the attention of creeps.
"So if it can happen to me," Vicki says. "Can you imagine how many women it’s happening to?"
"And," Vicki adds. "I’m a smart cookie."
You know what? That's true. Say what you will about Vicki, she's not dumb.
"Everybody told me he was a bad boy," she says. "And I didn’t see it till it was over."
Vicki knows that her warning will fall on deaf ears: "I guess I can’t say ‘Listen to me’ because you can’t listen to anybody when you’re in it."
"You gotta really trudge through it," she concludes.
Of course, being familiar with the red flags in advance could help a lot of women — and others — to avoid toxic relationships.
The differences can be subtle, of course. Not everyone who buys someone a bunch of presents is trying to manipulate a victim.
But if someone is trying to isolate you from your loved ones and convince you that they're really enemies, that is almost always a bad sign.
Vicki's story clearly resonated with a lot of people who have had brushes with these same sorts of manipulators.
Brooks Ayers may be out of her life, but he's left a stain on her story.
Of course, Brooks doesn't care what Vicki thinks. At all.