memories, mental health

Repost: The futility of advising someone to “let it go”…

I wrote this post in the fall of 2018. It was “born” out of a comment I got from someone who was irritated about my tendency to “trash” my husband’s ex wife. This person, who wasn’t someone who had been reading the blog for a long time, thought I was just a bitter second wife. I’m pretty sure I know who the “anonymous” commenter was, as she had been sending me private messages about moving to Germany. In those discussions, she told me she was a “first wife” of someone. I suspect that she thought I was attacking all first wives, when I was really just commenting about my situation with Bill, and how I felt about HIS ex wife. Bill’s ex wife is a special kind of terrible. And no, I certainly don’t think ALL exes are like her, and thank GOD for that!

Anyway, the offended person left me a comment telling me how “inappropriate”, “TMI”, and “negative” she felt my blog is, and advised me to “let it go”, or keep my negative posts about Ex private. She said I came off as “bitter, petty, and snotty”. I was kind of scratching my head at those comments. Was she really expecting me to take her unsolicited advice, especially when they were delivered in an insulting way? I mean, maybe I would if she was a friend of mine, but she was a random person on the Internet who had left me a comment with the moniker “Wondering Why”.

Maybe I would have considered taking her suggestion if people were paying me to write this blog… but as it stands right now, I don’t even take tips for this space. I only recently monetized this blog as an experiment. I may decide to demonetize it, since I don’t like looking at ads any more than anyone else does. But the travel blog is monetized– so far it’s raked in a big fat $1.70. I get far fewer hits on the travel blog, so I would like to see if this blog does better, and if so, how much better.

This post from November 2018 is left “as/is”. It came in the wake of a post I had written comparing Ex to “Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write the coyote post after Bill told me about things his daughter had told him about growing up with Ex and some of the really fucked up shit she did (and continues to do). My husband’s former wife is legitimately toxic and crazy, and it was upsetting to hear about things she did to her own children. So I processed those feelings by writing about them in an admittedly “negative”, “personal”, and “snarky” post comparing Ex to a feckless cartoon character whose harebrained schemes never work out for the best.

Like Wile E. Coyote, Ex usually assumes she knows better… and in fact, she often seems to think she knows all. But the end result of a lot of her big ideas usually turn out to be disastrous, and they have ripple effects that harm innocent people– even people like me, who get upset at hearing about them and write blog posts that piss off clueless readers. I get rude comments, then feel compelled to write even more. 😉 See? More ripple effects!

I should mention that at the time, I was feeling especially stressed out, because we were about to move out of our last house. I knew ex landlady drama was coming, as well as the sheer pain in the ass of moving, so my mood was definitely affected. I still think there are some pearls of wisdom in this piece. I was pretty gratified that several then regular readers left comments for “Wondering Why”, advising her to move on if she didn’t like my material. I still think that’s good advice for anyone. So here goes…

About twenty years ago, I was working as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office.  While I was working there, I became friendly with an older lady named Peggy, who, like me at that time, lived in Gloucester, Virginia.  As I got to know Peggy, I learned that she had a daughter who had been friends with my older sister, Sarah, when they were in high school in the early 80s. 

Over the few months that I worked in the admissions office at William & Mary, Peggy and I got to know each other better.  The work I was doing was pretty boring.  It was mostly filing and data entry on an ancient (by 1998 standards) computer.  You might be surprised by what high school seniors were sending to William & Mary in 1998.  William & Mary is a very prestigious school, and it receives many applications from outstanding students around the country and the world. 

I don’t know if it’s still true today, but back in the late 90s, Virginia had a law that required in state publicly funded colleges to admit a certain number of students from Virginia.  That meant that gaining admittance to William & Mary as an out of state or international student was extremely difficult.  Consequently, not only did the admissions office receive stellar test scores, personal essays, and transcripts from hopeful students; it also received a lot of other supporting documents, all of which needed to be filed.  That’s where I came into the picture. 

It was really an eye opening experience to see what people sent to the admissions office in their personal quests to become members of the “Tribe”.  It was insane, and created a lot of work for temping drones like me.  I noticed that most of the extra stuff did nothing but add detritus to each applicant’s folder.  It was pretty rare that an extra supporting document would result in an offer of admission to someone who otherwise would have been rejected.  Some of it was entertaining to look at, though.

I remember one girl’s mother sent a photocopy of her out of state nursing license and a picture of a younger version of the girl standing in front of the Wren Chapel with her family.  There was a supporting document from the girl’s dad, a police officer, stating that the family planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter in her academic endeavors.  I recall that this young lady didn’t gain acceptance to William & Mary.  I hope she found a school that she liked just as much.  Having been rejected by my first choices when I was a high school student, I understand how rejection feels.  But then, I did manage to find a great school for my purposes, so it all turned out fine in the end.

Anyway, this story comes up in the wake of yesterday’s minor drama on this blog, in which a first time commenter advised me that I need to “let it go”, regarding my husband’s ex wife.  Telling somewhat to “let it go” is kind of akin to telling them to “get over it”.  Personally, I think it’s an extremely rude, dismissive, and short-sighted thing to say to another person, particularly someone you don’t know.  I do understand why some people think it’s constructive advice, although frankly, I think it’s futile to tell someone they need to “let it go”.  Sometimes, it’s just not possible.  I came to that conclusion while I was working with Peggy.  She offered an analogy that I’ve not forgotten in the twenty years since we met. 

I was sitting on the floor next to a giant filing cabinet and Peggy’s cubicle.  I had a huge stack of essays, drawings, certificates, test scores, and the like, that I was stuffing into manila folders dedicated to each new applicant.  It was mindless work that numbed my brain as it chapped my hands.  Peggy helped me pass the time by telling me about her upbringing.  It turned out that, like me, she was raised by an alcoholic.  However, while my dad was the alcoholic in our family, in Peggy’s case, it was her mother who drank too much.  Peggy’s mother was extremely abusive to her.  Consequently, Peggy grew up suffering from depression and anxiety, and she had lingering feelings of hatred for her mother.  There was no love between Peggy and her mom, because Peggy’s mother had repeatedly beaten her up mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I felt sad for Peggy that she had those feelings toward her mom.  I may not always love the way my own mom behaves, but I do love her very much.  She was the sane parent; which isn’t to say that I didn’t love my dad.  I did love him, and mostly try to remember him fondly.  He did have a good side.  But he was often mean and abusive to me, and those memories are hard to erase.  I am now kind of “saturated” when it comes to abuse from other people.  I simply can’t tolerate it.

Peggy explained that as the years passed, her depression lingered, even though in 1998, she was probably in her 60s and her mother was long dead.  Peggy didn’t seem depressed to me in person.  In fact, she was bright, funny, friendly, and cheerful.  A lot of people have described me in the same way.  More than one person has told me they think I’m “bubbly”.  Some people even think I’m hilarious.  In person, I joke a lot and laugh and giggle.  A lot of “funny” people are like that.  Humor is a way to mask depression and anxiety.   

In 1998, I, too, was suffering from significant clinical depression and anxiety, and at that time, it had gotten really bad.  I had actually had these issues for most of my life, but in 1998, it was especially severe.  That was the year I finally decided to seek professional help, and got prescription medication for the depression that had dogged me for at least ten years.  I was not under a doctor’s care when I worked at William & Mary, though.  At that time, I was too poor to get help, and I had no health insurance.  Also, I didn’t know I was depressed and anxious.  That was the way I’d always been, only it was much worse in ’98 than it was in the preceding years.  That year, I thought of suicide fairly often.  I still sometimes have those fleeting thoughts, but it’s not nearly like it was in those days.  I’m probably more dysthymic now than anything else.

I remember Peggy explained in detail what she’d endured during her formative years at home, when she’d had no choice but to endure her mother’s constant insults, taunts, and physical abuse.  She got away from her mother as soon as she was able to and married a man with whom she was not compatible.  They eventually divorced, and Peggy was left alone to raise her daughter, which was very difficult for her.  At the end of her story, I remember Peggy telling me that having clinical depression is a lot like trying to function with a broken arm.

If you met a person with a broken arm, would you tell them they need to “let it go” and “get over it”? Would you assume that you know what the timeline should be for them to “heal” from a physical injury?  I’m sure there are cases of people who heal from broken bones very quickly.  Maybe you’ve had a broken bone and bounced back in just a couple of weeks.  But does that mean that someone else can heal in that same timeframe?  Maybe the other person has mitigating circumstances that make healing more difficult for them.  I think it’s often the same for depression and other mental health issues.  Some people heal faster than others.

I have never forgotten Peggy’s comparison of clinical depression to having a broken bone.  In either case, the condition is crippling and painful, especially without treatment.  I was especially clued in to how astute the comparison is when I did seek medical help in 1998.  It took about three months, but I finally found an effective antidepressant that literally changed my life.  When I got my brain chemicals straightened out, I was amazed at how much better and more competent I felt.  It really drove home to me that depression is a real illness and not just made up bullshit in my head. 

For so long, I felt so guilty about who I am.  I thought there was something truly “wrong” with me.  When I finally took the right medication and eventually felt the way non-depressed people feel, I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being depressed.  Depression was, indeed, a sickness that was beyond my control.  I couldn’t will myself not to be depressed.  I needed help to move beyond it.  In my case, potent antidepressants and counseling from an empathetic psychologist did the trick.

Now… this does not mean that a person can’t learn techniques to combat depression, and it doesn’t give a person an excuse to be a jerk to other people.  However, I did finally realize that depression is real, and it will probably always be a part of my life.  Being negative, grumpy, and bitter is a part of having depression.  Maybe some people don’t find that side of me pleasant and they think all they need to do is tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  I’m sure it seems that easy to them.  It’s not that easy for me.  I write in this blog to process those feelings instead of acting on them in a destructive manner.  In other places, I try to be less negative and bitter.  Some of my readers interact with me in other places and have seen that I’m generally not as “bitchy” there as I can be here.  It’s because I have a place to put most of the bitchy stuff, and that’s here in this blog. 

I realize that some people don’t like me or stuff I write.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten to a point at which I no longer feel the need to try to please others.  I do wish I were a more likable, positive, friendly, and popular person.  I have accepted that I will never be those things, and that’s okay.  I don’t take antidepressants now.  Maybe I will again at some time, but at this point, I’d rather not.  So I write blogs and publish them, and I make music.  Sometimes people like my efforts, though I think more people are either indifferent or think they can fix my problems by telling me to “let it go”.  My own mother has, more than once, told me to “let it go”.  I actually love my mom and I haven’t been able to take her advice.  What makes you think you’ll be more successful at giving me that advice than she’s been?  And why does it even matter to you if I’m “inappropriate” or share too much information?  It’s not your life, is it?  You don’t have to read this stuff.

I suppose I could make this blog private and I have openly suggested doing that before.  However, I have had several people tell me that they enjoy reading my blog.  So I leave it public for them and anyone else who understands.  If you don’t understand, and you find me unpleasant, I won’t be upset if you move on to another place on the web.  You’re certainly not the first one to find me unpleasant.  But please don’t glibly tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  That is a very dismissive thing to say to another person and it’s not right to discount other people’s feelings, particularly when you are a guest in their space.

As for my husband’s ex wife, I’m sure it would be amazing if I could simply “let it go” that she did her best to destroy my husband’s happiness, career, and connections to people who love him.  I wish I were that mature and magnanimous.  I’m not there yet, and I don’t think I will ever be there.  How do you forgive someone who sexually assaulted the love of your life and then denied him access to his children while spreading vicious lies to his parents about the kind of person he is?  I’m sure if it had happened to me, my husband would be equally angry.  So, you’ll have to excuse me for not “letting it go” where she’s concerned.  It will probably take a much longer time than I have left in life to completely get over it.  But with every day, there’s fresh hope. 

Don Henley’s good advice… but has it worked out for him? He’s still pissed at Don Felder, isn’t he?

3 thoughts on “Repost: The futility of advising someone to “let it go”…

  1. “Let it go,” indeed.

    Boy, do I hate that phrase, as well as the sentiment behind it. Especially when it’s written or uttered by someone who is not familiar with the particulars of certain situations.

    You are, I know, familiar with the estrangement between my older half-sister Vicky and me. That relationship had been strained since, at least in my adult life, I was 24, but it probably was strained during my childhood. It finally came to a head during the last decade of our mother’s life, and it ended, finally, after I left Miami and moved to the West Coast of Florida.

    Vicky is, sadly, a difficult person to get along with. She behaves in many ways that resemble Donald Trump, and as hard as I tried prior to the summer of 2015 to get along with her, the toxicity of her personality rubbed up against my instinct for self-preservation once too often, and here we are.

    My mom, Vicky, and I lived in Miami for 43 years, far apart from most of our family in Colombia. As a result, most of my cousins only knew me from when we lived in Bogota. (I was three when we moved to South America; we returned Stateside a few months after my ninth birthday.) After 1972, I only saw my cousins (either my Uncle Octavio’s kids or my Aunt Martha’s, both on my mom’s side of the family) when they flew to Miami on infrequent vacations or on the even rarer occasions when I went to Colombia to visit them. (I went once by myself – at age 11 – for the summer of 1974, and returned, with my mom this time, for a Christmas holiday visit in the winter of 1993/94).

    It is not a stretch to say that after 1972, my cousins in Colombia never really knew their “American branch” of the family all that well. I, for one, never had the time (or inclination) to write to the “Colombian branch” except to my grandparents. I was too busy with school, learning English as though I were an immigrant (even though I was born in Miami!), and, you know, doing kid stuff. For their part, my older cousins were busy with grown up stuff, and the ones in my generational group were also doing kid stuff down in Bogota.

    The upshot of this is this: My relatives in Bogota don’t know what everyday life was like for their Miami-residing Aunt Beatriz and cousins Alex and Vicky. If I saw my cousins at all, it was on rare occasions – maybe once or twice every five years or so from 1972 to 1997 when they went to Miami for brief vacations. And because my Aunt Martha and Uncle Octavio had made larger families with their respective spouses, I did not see most of my living cousins in the same city until 1993, and that’s because I was on THEIR home turf. And since everybody on both sides of the fence is so bad at the keeping-in-touch thing, we are all basically strangers to each other.

    I bring all this up because shortly after I moved to the Tampa area, I got a Facebook instant message from my cousin Ana Maria, one of my Uncle Octavio’s daughters, chastising me for a blog post I wrote about my struggles with Vicky on my original blog in Blogger.

    Whether Ana Maria speaks/reads English or uses Google Translate, I have no clue. What I do know is that she was majorly pissed because I was “unfairly attacking” Vicky online, on a forum where my Internet-hating half-sister could not defend herself.

    I replied something along the lines of “Well, if I write something about Vicky on my blog (which for all intents and purposes is a public forum), I make sure that what I say is factual.”

    My cousin retorted that it was still not cool, since Vicky does not have an Internet account and that even if what I wrote was true (which, annoyingly, she did not think it was), it was not proper for me to talk about “your loving sister that way.”

    “Ana Maria,” I said, “you and the rest of the family don’t know Vicky the way that Mom and I did. You only see the side of Vicky that she wants you to see when you guys come to Miami. which is hardly ever, or when she goes to visit you.” Then, remembering that Vicky flew to Colombia in October of 2015 to get away from Miami for a while after Mom died, I said, “I bet that you folks didn’t say ‘Don’t talk about Alex behind his back!’ when Vicky went to Bogota recently” (Knowing Vicky’ MO, I am willing to bet some of my best Star Wars collectibles that when she went to recuperate from her genuine grief over Mom’s death six falls ago, she told the family a distorted account of how I usurped her position as Mom’s principal caregiver and head of the household in Mom’s townhouse, painting herself as the selfless daughter and sibling who was mistreated by her younger bro, me.)

    As I suspected, Ana Maria had no easy comeback for that one, thus confirming my theory that Vicky did talk shit about both Mom and me while she was in Colombia. Her only comeback was telling, “Well, IF Vicky did bad things to you in the past, you should let it go.”

    (She wrote this in Spanish and I am pretty certain that she did not say “let it go” like that, but that was the basic gist.)

    I am smart enough (or I’d like to think I am) to know that forgiveness and equanimity are the best way to deal with interpersonal conflict. Not just for the sake of the person you are at odds with, but for yours, too. And in cases where the offending party is not narcissistic or suffers from borderline personality disorder and is genuinely willing to make amends, forgiveness – or “letting it go” – is the healthier way to go.

    Vicky, however, is not the kind of person who can be forgiven. And trust me, I tried to forgive her – as our mother surely did many, many times – for quite a few shady and unnecessarily painful things that she did to me way before Mom’s health declined sharply a decade ago. Forgiveness only works when the recipient acknowledges the injury he or she caused and makes amends. Vicky refuses to admit any wrongdoing or accept any responsibility for things she knows she did but blames others for them.

    Nope. Sometimes you can’t just “let it go.”

    • Yeah.

      And in my case, there is no biological connection. She’s a woman who abused my husband, left him broke and unable to have more children, and then not only alienated his kids, but also tried to alienate his parents! Aside from that, she also sexually assaulted him, and then tried to paint me as a whore.

      I am a lot of things, but I am definitely NOT a whore.

      And I would liked to have had children with the love of my life, but she made it impossible. Then, she had two more with her third victim, while she lied to Bill’s kids, so they became so alienated that he couldn’t even know them as they grew up. And they couldn’t know him, either. We’re finding out now just how damaging that was, at least to Bill’s younger daughter.

      I won’t ever be letting that go.

      I despise Bill’s ex wife. There are few people I could say I loathe, but she is definitely one. And over 19 years of watching her in action is how I got here.

      I may seem nasty and petty, but I come by it honestly. If people don’t get it, so be it.

      • Some people just can’t be forgiven.

        I don’t blame you for hating Bill’s ex-wife. She is a manipulative, dishonest, and toxic person who hurt quite a few people, including her own children, and tried to sully your reputation, to boot.

        “Let it go?” Nope. Bill’s ex will never change. People like never do.

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