celebrities, mental health, modern problems, psychology

Repost: Depression is not the “common cold” of mental illness…

I wrote the post below on June 9, 2018, when we were blissfully ignorant of the oncoming pandemic and all of the other shit that has happened in the past few years. I’m going to leave this post mostly as/is. I still feel this way in 2022, and I think that now, more than ever, we should be very careful about blowing off people who seem depressed.

This week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two much beloved, highly successful, incredibly talented people, suddenly decided to end their lives.  The news of both suicides came as a total shock to me.  I was especially blown away when I heard about Bourdain.

There’s a trite saying that depression is the “common cold” of mental illness.  I usually cringe when I hear that, though, because most people don’t die of the common cold, which can cause temporary misery, but usually goes away without any lingering effects.  Depression can be serious enough to cause death.  When depression is a factor, I don’t think of suicide as someone selfishly taking their own lives.  I think of it as a terminal event, much like people who have cancer or diabetes have terminal events that kill them.  What’s more, depression can go on for many years unabated.  It doesn’t necessarily clear up in a week or two like a cold does.

At this point, I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  Kate Spade’s husband has publicly come out to say that his wife had struggled with depression for many years.  Maybe Anthony Bourdain was also depressed.  I hesitate to assume I know why Bourdain decided to end his life.  The truth is, at this point, I really don’t know.  Most likely, he also suffered from the so-called “common cold” of mental illness.  Except depression is not really like the common cold at all.  

When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, many people were angry and outraged.  Initially, it was said that he’d had terrible depression, and he most assuredly did.  Many people felt he was simply weak and gutless for taking his life.  Then, some weeks later, it came out that Williams had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.  A lot of people don’t know anything about Lewy Body Dementia.  It’s not one of those diseases that gets a prominent face in the media.

My father had Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinsonian features.  I watched it take him from being an independent man with a sharp mind and a strong body, to a frail shadow of himself.  My dad was in his 70s when he was diagnosed with it.  It was devastating for him and for my mom, who spent at least six years taking care of him.  In the weeks before his death in July 2014, he was getting so debilitated that my mom was considering putting him in a nursing home.  It was becoming too hard for her to take care of him, even with the home health aides she had helping her.

Robin Williams was 63 when he died and, according to his wife, his case of LBD was very severe.  Although Williams died by his own hand, it was really the LBD, co-morbid with depression, that killed him.  Perhaps Bourdain was also facing a health situation that led him to kill himself.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he was just very depressed and simply decided that living was too painful.  I don’t know.  I actually couldn’t blame him in any event.  I have no idea what he was dealing with in his personal life and could never fully understand it even if I did.

I read that Bourdain died in Kaysersberg, France.  Bill and I were in Alsace two weeks ago and had made tentative plans to visit that town while we were there.  We didn’t end up going, but resolved to visit on a later trip to France. (2022- We did finally visit Kaysersberg two years ago, months before COVID took over the world).  It’s strange to think that this man, whose innovative food and travel journalism I only recently discovered, was just a mere two hours away from me when he died.  The area where Bourdain exited this existence is absolutely beautiful.  Given that he had very French roots, it almost seems fitting that he chose to die in France, even if I’m sorry it happened the way it did.

I only recently– like within the past three weeks– started watching Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown.  I started watching it because Bourdain had visited Armenia and I was curious about what he thought of it.  I was so impressed by the show he did on a country where I spent two years of my life.  My years in Armenia were pretty difficult.  In fact, my own issues with depression worsened significantly when I was there.  However, twenty-one years beyond my time in Armenia has left me with mostly good memories.  I don’t think as much about the profound feelings of worthlessness I experienced there… and so many years hence, I realize that my time there was not at all wasted.  It only seemed that way at the time, partly due to my life inexperience and partly due to the distorted thinking that comes from being depressed.

One thing I’ve noticed all week is that some people are sharing their own stories about depression.  Other people are imploring their friends and loved ones to “reach out” if they feel suicidal.  Many people are also sharing the suicide hotline.  I’m going to be frank and say that the repeated posts about the suicide hotline kind of get on my nerves.  It’s not because I don’t think people should know about and use the hotline.  It’s more because simply sharing that phone number is about as effective as offering “thoughts and prayers”.  Besides, not everyone who is depressed actually realizes they are depressed.  I didn’t know I was depressed until it had been going on for years.

Clinical depression causes a host of symptoms that make “reaching out” extremely difficult.  Depression robs people of their self-esteem and energy.  You might encourage your withdrawn friends to “reach out” and remind them that you’re always there to listen.  But in the mind of a depressed person, you’re not really talking to them.  Even if you were specifically talking to them, reaching out takes energy and courage.  And sometimes people say they want their friends to reach out, but then they aren’t actually available or interested.

Sometimes, instead of really listening and empathizing, well-meaning people try to cheer up their depressed friend by telling them about all the “good” things they have.  Personally, I think telling someone who is depressed and anxious to “buck up” and “get over it” is pretty much the worst thing you can do.  It’s very likely to backfire.  Someone who musters the courage to reach out, especially to someone who has encouraged them to do so, does NOT need to hear about all the apparently awesome things they have to live for.

Please don’t tell your depressed friend that they are being selfish, overly dramatic, or self-centered, either.  Shaming doesn’t help.  It only makes things worse.

What many depressed people really need is someone who listens to what they have to say and assists them in finding their way to a person who is qualified to help them.  Listen to your friend without interrupting.  When they tell you what’s on their mind, say something that validates their feelings and indicates that you understand that they need help.  You could say something like, “It sounds like you’re very overwhelmed right now.”  If you can’t help them yourself, you could say,  “Let’s find someone who can help you with these problems.”  That’s certainly better than, “I can’t believe you’re depressed.  Look at all this cool shit you have!  I’d kill to live in your house with your hot wife (or husband, as the case might be).”

On the surface, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had everything to live for.  They were both very successful in their careers.  Both were parents of young daughters.  Both had achieved financial success and had friends who adored them.  They were adored by strangers, too.  Still, somehow they both still made the decision to commit suicide.  They aren’t alone.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is on the rise in the United States.  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain no doubt had access to medical help that too many people in the United States don’t have, yet they still died by suicide.  Common colds don’t usually end that way, at least not in people who are basically healthy.    

I may have to watch more of Bourdain’s shows.  I’ll have to read at least one of his books.  He left behind so many gifts. Although he died by his own hand, and some people think that was selfish of him, I think he was a very generous person to share his talents with the world.  While I don’t own any of Kate Spade’s quirky creations, I’ve seen a lot of pictures of handbags my friends own.  They’ve been sharing those pictures all week, letting everyone know that Kate Spade mattered to them.  Sadly, when you have depression, you don’t notice that you matter to others… and when they tell you that you do matter, you don’t necessarily believe what they say.  Depression is a major mind fuck.  It’s really nothing like a cold.  And getting over it takes time, effort, money, and the ability to give a damn.

ETA in 2022: Fellow blogger and frequent commenter Alexis wrote this on the original post…

It’s interesting that you mentioned the “common cold of mental illness” analogy. A psychiatrist lecturer I heard in my second year disputed that analogy, saying that if a physical illness metaphor were needed or in any way beneficial, that depression would more correctly be described as “the ‘lupus’ of mental illness.” As with lupus, some people with depression mostly manage to function with medication. Others are never well but aren’t quite terminal. Others with either lupus or depression will lose their lives to the conditions. Depression is far from being a mostly self-limiting condition.

I had read another person refer to depression as the “diabetes” of mental illness. That also seems more like a realistic comparison of depression to a physical illness than a cold. At least if it’s clinical depression and not a situational depression.

Another commenter– DaBrickMaster– wrote this…

Depression should not be underestimated by any means, and it’s hard for someone who has never experienced it to understand. I went through a depression that slowly crept up on me several years ago, and it felt like I was trapped in an unescapable despair that I just wanted to end. I’m thankful for my parents and doctors who were there to support me to successfully get me out.

I realize now that many people out there aren’t so fortunate, and I just can’t imagine how one can get out of depression on your own. So if someone is stuck in a rut, I won’t hesitate to be there and help out.

Thanks for sharing this post, @knotty, and I’m terribly sorry that you and your family had to suffer from depression and LBD. They are most definitely NOT like a common cold.

And this was my response…

Thanks for the comment and for reading. I’m grateful I got through my depression and I’m happy that you got through yours. I think a lot of people just don’t understand it unless they’ve experienced it. The thing that made me realize that depression is a real illness was the process of feeling better and the rational thinking and mental clarity I finally had. It was like someone turned on a light.

I still have my blue days, but nothing so far like what I experienced twenty years ago. I hope I never feel like that again.

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Germany, mental health, modern problems, narcissists, YouTube

Is America really as crazy as it looks from over here?

I recently mentioned that I stumbled across a couple of “Karen” channels on YouTube. And, in spite of my disdain for the derogatory hijacking of the name, “Karen”, some of the videos I’ve seen are like train wrecks. I was especially shocked by the video below…

This video actually shows several incidents, but the one that disturbs me the most is the one captured in the still above. It starts at 8:17.

As I was watching this video yesterday, I literally shrank back against the headboard on my bed. I’m disturbed by the sheer vitriol and rage pouring out of these people. Yes, the woman captured above seems angrier than the guy she’s talking to, but both are extremely distressed. I’m surprised this didn’t become a violent confrontation. Below are a few screenshots.

We do have some angry people in Europe, and there have been some unfortunate incidents of violence and rage reported. But it seems so much worse in the United States, especially given how many people own weapons. In fact, as I was watching this, I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I imagined the other people in that neighborhood being forced to listen to, or actually witness in person, this rage filled argument that was filmed and put on YouTube.

Later, I called my mom and we both lamented how crazy things seem lately. I swear, America is not like it was when I was growing up. People are acting like maniacs. I’m sure much of it is due to our political situation and the terrible polarization that has occurred over the past few years. The pandemic, and all of the new rules and restrictions don’t help. People are very stressed out and worried, and it seems like some people feel like the world is about to end.

I really think a lot of this behavior is driven by the pandemic. People resent the rules and restrictions, and the “holier than thou” and “entitled” behaviors that are prompted in response to the pandemic. Some people seem to have a very hard time adapting, and it doesn’t help that there’s all this doom and gloom news. Several of the incidents captured in the above video are about the mask rules and people not wanting to adhere to them.

I watched a video by Dr. Ramani yesterday. It was about “narcissists and transportation rage”– people who are freaking out on airplanes or in airports. She seems to think that the people who act like this are narcissists. I’m sure a lot of them are narcissists, but the sheer volume of people who are acting like this is disturbing. Are they ALL narcissists? Or are they stressed and scared people who have completely lost their ability to cope?

I know that some people are entitled assholes no matter what. But is everyone who is wigging out lately really a narcissist? I think everyone has a limit, and recently, Americans seem to be proving that their tolerances for frustration and adversity are not as high as they should be. On the other hand, life was pretty difficult even before the pandemic.

I remember having to work several part time jobs with no benefits just to get my bills paid. I remember being scared of the day when I couldn’t meet my own financial demands. I don’t even have children to worry about. Consider that so many people my age are dealing with their aging parents and children in college, or maybe they waited until later to have children and had one with “special needs” of some sort.

Those are stressful conditions under normal circumstances. Add in the pandemic and the hassles and fears associated with it, as well as inflation, lack of affordable housing, and the inability to take a vacation without being constantly reminded of the pandemic. Add in the challenges of taking care of younger children when schools close or go to distance learning, while meanwhile, your parents have dementia or require help taking care of their needs. Sometimes people just freak out because it all becomes too much. And then they get filmed and put on YouTube, where people mock them.

In some of these videos, both parties are acting atrociously. It’s obvious some of these people are fed up and stressed out, but some seem to be permanently unhinged and uncivilized.

I realize I am very lucky on so many levels. From where I sit, Germany is not nearly as chaotic as the US is right now. People are sick of the pandemic here, and there’s definitely some grumpiness. But I haven’t seen or heard of nearly as many people losing their shit as I have in the United States. Of course, in Germany, filming people and putting them online can lead to legal problems in a heartbeat. As a general rule, Germans are big on privacy.

My mom is 83 years old and still is pretty good health. She has enough money to take care of her needs, at least at this point. She is happy living alone, although she did say that she is probably going to move closer to my sister in North Carolina within the next year or so. But that’s mainly because the assisted living apartment where she’s lived since 2009 is getting too expensive. There’s another complex near Chapel Hill, where my sister lives, that is less pricey. She said she has to wait for someone to die before she moves. Apparently, there’s a long waiting list.

I know I need to watch some different videos on YouTube to change the algorithms of what ends up on my suggested videos list. I also need to change the algorithms on Facebook. Somehow, I get posts from Reddit Ridiculousness, where people share AITA (Am I The Asshole) posts. These posts usually consist of stories about people in certain situations that cause discomfort and questions about whether or not someone’s behavior ventures into “asshole” territory.

I will admit, some of the stories are pretty entertaining and/or interesting. But it’s hard to gauge whether or not someone is an asshole based only on an Internet anecdote, because you can only judge them by objective standards and whatever details they include in their stories. Not everyone has a way with words, so it can be difficult to get an accurate picture of a situation. You also have different personalities that come into play. Some people are better than others at hiding who they are, and some people have abrasive personalities, but aren’t necessarily assholes.

I know this, because many people assume I’m an asshole because of my many ventings about Ex. They assume she’s a “normal” person. I’m gratified, though, because now younger daughter talks to Bill and confirms that we aren’t the crazy ones. Aside from that, I’ve shared some of Ex’s public postings with a couple of friends, both of whom have expressed shock and dismay. If you don’t know her backstory, you’d never know that a lot of what she posts is a facade to try to look good. But then she’ll slip some things in that don’t go unnoticed by the astute. Like, for instance, her constant thinly veiled Twitter attempts to wangle money from celebrities.

Anyway… it’s been bizarre to sit over here and watch some of this stuff from afar. I am an American, but some of these videos make me feel kind of ashamed of that fact. I love my country, and I know that our people are capable of great things. But lately, it’s like everybody has gone off the deep end. And yes, it does seem worse there than it is here… although I did get flipped off in Austria a couple of months ago by a guy on a bike. I think the guy meant to flip off Bill, who was driving at the time, but I got the full brunt of his middle finger. I will admit that my instinct was to respond in kind. So I guess there is that. I probably wouldn’t have done that in Germany, though. Flipping people off, especially in traffic, is against the law. Why? Because finger gestures almost always make things worse and escalate situations that don’t need to be escalated. So does yelling, preaching, shaming, and flying off the handle. I feel like people all over the whole world, but especially people in the United States, need to take a deep breath.

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family, holidays, mental health

I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays, and it’s a good policy to have!

I hope everyone reading my blog post enjoyed their holiday yesterday… those who celebrated, anyway. I know not everyone enjoys Christmas. There was a time in my past when it wasn’t such a fun holiday for me. I would say that for most of my 20s, I wasn’t a Christmas fan. I found it to be more of a burden than anything else. In those years, I was still single, and Christmas meant spending money I didn’t have on gifts for people I didn’t know that well anymore, and without fail, at least one dramatic or traumatic altercation with someone from my family of origin.

Christmas got dramatically better for me from about the year 2005. That was the first year after I resolutely decided that I would never again let someone else fuck up my holidays. I have stubbornly stuck to that resolution, and it works really well. It helps that we live in another country now, so no one expects us to take part in Christmas gatherings anymore. Our Christmases are just Bill and me and the dogs, with lots of wine, beer, music, and good food… and presents that don’t have any weird messages or symbols attached to them. There aren’t any arguments. There aren’t any manipulative ploys for attention. There’s nothing but us, enjoying each other and our very compatible and comfortable marriage. It’s peaceful and freeing, just the way I love it. We don’t even bother with church.

I know we’re beyond blessed. I’ve read more than a few angsty posts from people who find Christmas unbearably overwhelming and annoying. I’ve seen a few newspaper articles about how to handle Christmas with obnoxious relatives, which is even trickier this year, since vaccinations against COVID-19 are available and not everybody agrees with taking them. Christmas shouldn’t be something to endure… but for some people, it really is.

Unfortunately, COVID vaccines are just one more issue that divides people, which causes stress in family units. My own family of origin isn’t immune to it. My mom said that one of my sisters invited her to spend Christmas with her family, but this sister isn’t vaccinated and refuses to consider getting the shots. My mom is in her 80s and lives in an assisted living apartment. She doesn’t want to be around unvaccinated people, because she doesn’t want to get sick. My sister also lives in another state, and mom doesn’t want to drive there. So she decided to stay home… which is fine for her, since she’s a very independent person. I’ll probably call her later today to see how it went for her.

Bill talked to his daughter on Skype on Christmas Eve. They had a great chat. Younger daughter said she was very happy with the gifts that Bill and his mom sent to her. She said she was pleased with the gifts, because they were just gifts. There was no weird hidden meaning or guilt message attached. Bill sent toys for her kids, some German candy that isn’t available in the USA, a gift card for a restaurant so she and her husband can have a date night, and a big box of Lebkuchen, German gingerbread. Younger daughter said the Lebkuchen was a huge hit, since she’s pregnant, and the ginger is soothing to her stomach. She said that her mom would buy it in the past, but it was always stale. The box Bill sent was fresh, and much to our surprise, got to her very quickly.

She said that her mother also sent gifts… and then she asked Bill if he ever got gifts from Ex that had “hidden meanings”. Bill chuckled knowingly, because he remembered quite a few occasions when his ex wife sent gifts that weren’t bringing tidings of joy.

He told me about how, back when they first separated in 1999, Ex was letting #3 stay at the home that Bill was still paying the mortgage on. She told Bill not to come home. Instead, they would meet at my father-in-law’s house, and have Christmas there. Under the tree were presents for Bill from the kids… But they were items that Bill already owned. When he left their house to go back into the Army, he left a lot of his stuff there. And instead of sending the items to him, Ex simply wrapped them up and had the kids put their names on the packages. Then she put them under the tree, disguised as gifts. There he sat on Christmas morning 1999, unwrapping the Star Wars VCR tapes that he’d already owned and had watched with ex stepson.

At the time, Bill just blew it off. He figured she was just being a petty bitch. But then he realized that Ex was also doing all she could to eliminate his presence in the family. She threw out photos of him and even stole the one that younger daughter used to sleep with. She cut his image out of pictures. Older daughter once remarked that she had forgotten what he looked like, because Ex was doing her best to erase him… even as she demanded $2550 a month from him in child support, which she received on time, every month, in full, and with no complaint.

For years, I was so disgusted by the cruel things she did. But now, I know that this is the kind of treatment everyone eventually gets from her. She does the same thing to her own children. I don’t know what she sent younger daughter, but I can imagine that whatever it was, it was intended to make her feel shitty. Or, at least, GUILTY.

I have mentioned before that Ex has a habit of ruining treasured childhood relics, like storybooks and music. Bill used to read a book to his children when they were small. It was a book about forgiveness. Just before Bill went to Iraq, Ex sent him the book, with a really cryptic shitty message. She wouldn’t encourage the kids to speak to him. Instead, she had them write him letters disowning him, then she sent him a book to remind him of them… and just before he went to a place where he could have been killed. For weeks, I had to look at that book in our home. I finally told Bill to do something with it so I didn’t have to see it, or I would be throwing it out. He ended up sending it back to her with a note that read, “You need this more than I do.” BRAVO! That was the last time she ever sent him a poisonous package.

Unfortunately, it sounds like she’s still up to her old tricks. I feel sad for Bill’s daughters, and the three other kids Ex has had, but was apparently never satisfied with and just wants to torment. I don’t know what drives her to be the way she is. Some of it, I’m sure, is mental illness… but some of it is just plain mean and cruel. How sad it is that one of the things Bill can bond with his daughter over is the mental fuckery perpetrated by Ex.

Lest anyone think this is going to be another one of my Ex trashing posts… I will now move on to an anecdote about my own family. I’ve written the story many times about what happened in my own family, back in 2003. That was the year I swore off gatherings with my family of origin.

One of my sisters had asked for a ride to Gloucester with us. We obliged, but I told her that if there was a fight, we’d be leaving. Sure enough, hours after we arrived, there was a fight.

Besides the fight, which made the tension in the house unbearable, Bill and I were relegated to the very uncomfortable sleeper sofa in the freezing cold room which had once been a garage. It had been rebuilt into an office, but had poor insulation. I had started my period , and that room wasn’t near a bathroom. I just wanted to be in my own house.

Bill and I resolved to leave the next day. The sister who came with us didn’t want to go home early, and tried to manipulate us into staying. She wanted us to take her shopping. I refused, so she threw a huge tantrum… I mean HUGE! There was screaming, swearing, melting down, and it was like something I would have expected from a toddler.

However, instead of giving in, as I had in the past, I turned to Bill and said, “Come on, let’s just go.” And we did. We left her at my parents’ house. She had to find another way home, which I understand involved taking a bus. She was a woman in her 40s at the time. She and I have talked about that incident just once since it happened. In her version of the story, I was blaming her for our other sister’s fight with me.

I saw our spat from an entirely different perspective. I had told her ahead of time that I was not willing to stay at the house if there was any fighting. My sister had agreed to those conditions. Then, when there predictably was a fight, she tried to change the terms to ones that suited her, even though we had done her a favor by driving her down there, and she had agreed to our conditions.

When I refused to acquiesce to her demands, she had two choices– she could either come with us, or she could find her own way home. When she threw a tantrum, we determined that she’d rather stay in Gloucester… and I sure as hell didn’t need her in my car for hours, complaining non-stop as we drove back to northern Virginia. At the time, that was a very traumatic event, but it was a good thing it happened. Christmas 2003 was what gave me the courage to deal with Ex during Christmas of 2004, when she tried to ruin our holiday.

In 2004, Ex tried to manipulate me into attending Christmas at Bill’s dad’s house. She told us to get a hotel room, since she and the kids and #3 would be staying at the house. She refused to listen to Bill when he said it was a terrible idea. She expected me to show up, even though she never even asked me what I thought of it. It occurred to me that I LOVE my immediate family, but I didn’t even want to do Christmas with them again. I sure as hell didn’t want to do it with Ex, her husband, the kids, and my in-laws. I realized that if I went, it would be yet another disastrous holiday season.

I told Bill I would not be attending the gathering, but he should go and see his daughters. He went… and it was pretty dreadful, although not as dreadful as it would have been if I had gone, too. Bonus– we saved a lot of money because I stayed home with the dogs. I finally learned that obligatory, “forced family time is not always the best idea”…

What am I trying to say here? It’s that the holidays belong to everyone. You have the right to enjoy your holiday, just as much as anyone else does. And if family gatherings cause stress, strife, or cause you to go into unwanted debt, you have the right to opt out… to protect your own sanity. Christmas is optional.

I remember how, back in the days when I felt like I had to spend Christmas at home, it would always take some time to recover. Sometimes it took a few days. Sometimes, it was weeks. The year that we left my sister at my parents’ house, it was a year before she spoke to me again. But, she probably doesn’t realize that I rather enjoyed the silence. Nowadays, she mostly treats me with more respect, which is really all I ever could have hoped for in the first place.

But she did send me a private message with a little drama in it this year… she told me about how, a few years ago, our mom called her up and yelled at her, and brought my name into it. She said that mom was upset about how my sister refused to cooperate with the annual family tradition. My sister insinuated that it was because our brother-in-law had abused her cat when they came the year prior. Brother-in-law doesn’t think animals belong inside. He also enjoys watching us fight.

Anyway, I wasn’t there to see what happened, so I don’t know his side of the story. The bottom line is, because of what had happened during a previous holiday, she decided to stay home, and she claimed that our mom called her up and bitched. She was supposedly “shocked” that sister hadn’t wanted to celebrate, “Especially since Jenny…” then she stopped herself.

My comment was, “Because Jenny what? Because I don’t spend holidays at home anymore? I have DONE my time.” As the youngest, I went to all the graduations, while my graduations usually weren’t attended by my sisters. I used to be the one sister everyone could count on to be there. But that last Christmas in 2003 was the last straw. I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays.

I stay in my house, sleep in my own comfortable bed, eat what I want, drink what I want, wear what I want, and listen to whatever music I want to… and there is NO fighting… and no stupid manipulative bullshit or guilt tripping or mean remarks about how I need to go on a diet, put on makeup, or fix my hair. There are no intrusive questions about how I can afford my lifestyle or critical, judgmental remarks about things I say, or the way I laugh, or anything else. I can simply be myself, and be appreciated for the person I am… and the person I am is really not so bad.

I am all for holidays without stress, guilt, tension, fighting, manipulation, crying jags, physical blows, temper tantrums, or lies. Ever since I decided that I’m an adult and I deserve these things, life has been better. Ever since we decided that the holidays are for us to enjoy, too, Bill and I have found Christmas to be a lot better… and much more fun! And I haven’t felt the need to read or write to an advice column, asking for help on how to deal with my relatives since…

Last night, the most stressful event was at the end of the evening, as Bill struggled to keep his eyes open. He just looked like a pissed off teddy bear, and it was absolutely ADORABLE. That’s the kind of thing I like to see on Christmas. Here’s hoping that’s how it will be from now on. Any friends or family members who are game for that kind of celebration are welcome. The rest can make drama among themselves and leave us out of it.

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Duggars, law, mental health, psychology

Josh Duggar must be a full on psychopath… there’s just no other explanation!

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of video taken by KHBS of Josh and Anna leaving court in September. What in the world would make the two of them smile at this point in time? It just defies logic.

Good morning, y’all. I had a completely different topic in mind this morning. I was fully intending to write about something else that has nothing to to do with Josh Duggar. I might be back later to write my originally conceived post. And before I get started, I want to issue a strong warning to anyone who is easily triggered. This post is going to be extremely disturbing and dark. Please proceed with caution.

Still with me? Okay…

Yesterday, it was reported in The Sun that Josh Duggar’s distant relative, Matthew Waller, took the stand during Josh’s court proceedings. Waller was the only other employee at Josh’s used car lot, which is where Josh’s HP desktop computer was located. This was the computer that had the illicit “CP” material on it that has Josh in so much legal trouble today. Waller had initially said that he didn’t know the password to the dark web on Josh’s computer, but when defense attorneys asked if he recognized the phrase “Intel1988”, he said it “rang a bell”. This revelation showed that it was possible that someone else had access to the dark web on that computer and might have downloaded the illegal material.

US Assistant Attorney Dustin Roberts reportedly responded with fury. According to The Sun, he “screamed” at Waller, demanding, “Was there something you’re not telling me? You didn’t tell me or law enforcement about Intel1988? I told you I thought you were hiding something from me.”

Roberts continued, “You’re recalling today knowing about Intel1988, after talking to Homeland Security, then the defense?”

Waller reportedly said that he hadn’t remembered the password when he was questioned by federal agents, but now that the defense attorneys were mentioning it, he’d had a sudden flash of recall. Waller said the password was “vaguely familiar.” So what does that mean? Is Waller admitting that he could have been the culprit? And why would he do that? But then it gets even sicker, and much more disturbing.

Yesterday, it was revealed during Josh Duggar’s trial that federal agents located a folder on Josh’s computer that had 65 thumbnail files of cached downloads. In the folder that the agents found, there was a video of a three month old baby being tortured and abused. There were many more videos and images found on the computer, although experts couldn’t say whether or not Josh had viewed any of them. Meanwhile, Josh and his lawyers have been doing their very best to try to pin the blame on someone else– anyone else— who might pay the price for Josh’s alleged disgusting crimes.

It was also reported that Josh’s wife, Anna, who has, in the last six weeks, just had her seventh baby with Josh– another girl– abruptly left the courtroom before this very disturbing evidence was disclosed. Below is a video Katie Joy of Without a Crystal Ball made. I know Katie Joy is a controversial YouTube personality, but her explanation of what was discovered is probably good enough for those who want to know more. Additionally, some of the court transcripts are available here.

More on what was disclosed during Josh Duggar’s trial yesterday. Proceed with caution.

I don’t even know how the people in that courtroom could stand to hear about what was found on the computer, let alone view some of the images and videos. I think I read that they were, at least, spared the footage of the infant being abused. What a sick, vile, revolting discovery. There are just no words for how completely horrible this is. And now I sit here thinking that, for years, the Duggars were held up as this wonderful Christian family, with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar bragging about how God kept “blessing” them with children. Josh, as the oldest, was the very first of their many “blessings from God.”

We now know that Josh has zero respect for other people’s “blessings from God”, does he? He had no heart for the victims who were abused and tortured for his own sexual gratification. I am convinced that he is a very sick man, and if he doesn’t go to prison for this, I suspect he will have a short life and not a moment’s peace until he goes straight to Hell.

I really think Josh must be a full on psychopath. Or… to use a more official term, he’s probably an individual with antisocial personality disorder. And no, I am not qualified to “diagnose” anyone, nor does this opinion count as a diagnosis. This is just an educated guess. But I really think Josh has a lot of the signs and symptoms of someone with antisocial personality disorder. Fortunately, there aren’t too many of them in the world. According to Dr. Todd Grande’s video below, 3% of males and 1% of females in the general population could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder:

  • Disregard for right and wrong
  • Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others
  • Being callous, cynical and disrespectful of others
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure
  • Arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated
  • Recurring problems with the law, including criminal behavior
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation and dishonesty
  • Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead
  • Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, aggression or violence
  • Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
  • Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behavior with no regard for the safety of self or others
  • Poor or abusive relationships
  • Failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior or learn from them
  • Being consistently irresponsible and repeatedly failing to fulfill work or financial obligations

The symptoms usually appear in adults with antisocial personality disorder before they’re fifteen years old. As it’s been widely reported, Josh was having issues with abusing children when he was thirteen or fourteen. He was fourteen when he admitted to abusing four of his younger sisters and a babysitter. The Mayo Clinic continues:

Signs and symptoms of conduct disorder include serious, persistent behavior problems, such as:

  • Aggression toward people and animals
  • Destruction of property
  • Deceitfulness
  • Theft
  • Serious violation of rules
Todd Grande explains what antisocial personality disorder is.

In the above video, Todd Grande explains that there is an association between child abuse and early childhood trauma and antisocial personality disorder. Grande states that some studies show that as many as 80% of incarcerated males could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. People who have this problem do not respect laws, which often leads them to prison.

This video offers Dr. Grande’s analysis of Josh Duggar’s behavior.

In the many years before the public came to know about just how sick and perverted Josh Duggar is, he was often jokingly called “Smuggar”. I can remember reading the now defunct Television Without Pity pages about the Duggars, and the most egregiously obnoxious characters from the Duggar family were given nicknames. Josh’s nickname came from the fact that he was arrogant, but “charming”. Now we know that underneath that layer of superficial charm was a complete disaster of a human being.

For weeks, we’ve all heard about how Josh has tried to pin the blame for these charges on other people. According to Katie Joy, it even looked like Josh’s lawyers might have been able to cast reasonable doubt on the charges. But after yesterday’s bombshell dropped, I don’t think Josh is going to get away with this. If he does, there will likely be a reckoning carried out beyond the prison gates– like, I think Josh would have reason to fear for his life. I am just so sad for Josh’s innocent children, as well as all of his victims.

Whether or not he is convicted, we know that people HAVE been victimized by Josh Duggar. He has openly admitted it, and some of his victims– his sisters– have confirmed it. However, I remember when Jessa and Jill were interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News, Jessa really downplayed what actually happened. In short, she LIED. But she probably did so because her father ordered her to lie. So much for following The Ten Commandments. It just shows that like his son, Jim Bob Duggar thinks he is above the law. Rules are for other people, not him.

For years, Jim Bob Duggar has justified his behavior by pointing to his huge brood of children and his significant wealth, which I’m sure is dwindling by the day, thanks to this very public trial featuring his eldest spawn. Meanwhile, his daughter Jill, who is one of Josh’s victims, is frozen out of the family circle for defying her father and trying to live life on her own terms. It’s just sick and wrong on so many levels.

It was also reported that Josh Duggar did not appear to be particularly serious while he was in court. It was said that he was smiling, cheerful, and joking with the court reporter.

I think about what it means for a person to have antisocial personality disorder. People with this problem often suffered severe child abuse and neglect when they were very young. There are also some genetic roots to this disorder. Josh is the eldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Consider that he was raised in an environment in which corporal punishment is not only tolerated, but highly encouraged. Josh’s mother, Michelle, is well-known for “blanket training” her children when they were babies.

Blanket training is a technique that is described in Michael and Debi Pearl’s very controversial childrearing book, To Train Up A Child. It involves placing a baby on a blanket or a play mat with a toy just out of reach. When the baby tries to get off of the blanket, the parent or caregiver is supposed to hit the baby with a ruler or other implement. Eventually, the baby supposedly learns not to try to leave the blanket. That technique likely comes in handy in families that have as many children as the Duggars do. However, it’s also a very sick and abusive disciplinary method. I’m sure for someone who has a genetic or environmental tendency to develop a personality disorder, blanket training and techniques resembling it are particularly damaging. I don’t know if Michelle Duggar used blanket training for Josh. She probably had no need to, since he was her first baby. However, it’s pretty clear that Josh’s father, Jim Bob Duggar, is authoritarian and, being a believer in the Old Testament, probably used harsh and possibly abusive disciplinary methods with Josh and the rest of his children.

I think of Josh being raised with that type of disciplinary method and any others that involved abuse. I also think of him likely having a much higher need for his parents’ attention, particularly if he was a budding narcissist. Imagine having that type of personality and your mother keeps having babies, each of whom diminishes the attention she can give to her other children. Every time Michelle had another baby, there was less of her to go around to the others. And I suspect that Josh, being the oldest child who had once enjoyed all of his mother’s attention, must have really resented his siblings and the attention they received. Especially the girls, whom he was taught from an early age are inferior to boys, simply because they’re girls. In the fundie Christian world, females are always subservient to males.

Now consider that Josh was married at a very young age. He wasn’t the youngest of his siblings to marry, but he was the first, and he and Anna were wed when he was just 20 years old. It was at the height of the Duggar family’s fame. I’m sure Jim Bob and Michelle felt they needed to get him married off, if not to protect their daughters from Josh’s deviance, then to give him an outlet so he didn’t do anything to destroy the family’s reputation. But now, as we can see, that tactic didn’t work. And God only knows what Anna has endured besides the humiliation of being cheated on and repeatedly impregnated by her husband, who clearly has some very serious problems and reportedly enjoys “rough sex”. She won’t leave him, though, and it really wouldn’t surprise me if she and Josh are trying for one last baby before Josh goes to prison.

It was reported that several family members attended Josh’s trial, including Austin Forsyth, who is married to Joy Anna Duggar Forsyth. Joy Anna was victimized by her brother, Josh, when she was just five years old. Derick Dillard, married to Jill Duggar Dillard, another of Josh’s victims, was also in attendance. Imagine how these two men must feel, seeing and hearing what a disgusting pervert Josh is and what he did to his sisters, who are also their wives. And yet even that wasn’t enough to satisfy Josh’s depravity. I’m sad to say this, but I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. What we’re hearing about now is probably just a fraction of what Josh has seen and done. He’s probably gotten away with a lot more than what we know.

Again… I am certainly not trying to officially diagnose Josh. I am only offering a theory that makes some sense to me. If he does have antisocial personality disorder or is a sociopath or psychopath, he will likely be in good company if he winds up in prison. As Dr. Grande says, up to 80% of incarcerated males could possibly be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, even though only 3% of males in the general population could.

I am, once again, completely horrified by this train-wreck of a story. Every time I think this situation is as bad as it can be, it gets even worse. There are few lifeforms more helpless than a three month old infant. Anyone who would enjoy watching the abuse of such a defenseless creature must be completely depraved and sick. Anyone who would conceive of, and make money off of, producing such revolting content is someone with no morals or decency whatsoever. It’s just unconscionable.

I think if there’s anything to be learned from the Duggar family, it’s that there’s almost always nasty stuff beneath the surface. People who try to hold themselves up as role models, rather than being held up that way by others, are usually hiding a lot of skeletons. Perhaps on the positive side, it does appear that locals in Arkansas are losing their enthusiasm for Jim Bob Duggar. Maybe that will mean he won’t win his Arkansas Senate election. One can only hope.

Well… we’ll see what else comes to light today. Maybe I’ll come back and write about the topic I was planning before I heard about this latest news. Or maybe I’ll save it for later. Have a good Friday.

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Duggars, law, LDS, mental health, religion, true crime

Strict religions often destroy people and their families…

It’s the first day of December 2021, which means that Josh Duggar is FINALLY in court, answering to federal charges that he received and possessed child pornography. Although cameras and recording devices are not allowed in court, this trial promises to be a spectacle of the highest order. Josh Duggar, as many people know, is the eldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The Duggar family is extremely well-known for being fundamentalist Christians. For years, they made a lot of money promoting their beliefs on reality television with their show, 19 Kids and Counting. They were famous for having extremely strict and conservative Christian– specifically Baptist– religious beliefs.

Many people admired them, and fully believed in the wholesome image they projected. Some people went as far as to try to emulate the Duggars. Ma and Pa Duggar were often asked to speak about their beliefs, selling them to people who were looking for a way to survive our turbulent times. Their image of closeness, coupled with strict morality and behavioral guidelines, were very appealing to the masses. It helped that most of the children were bright, articulate, and attractive, and came across well on TV. They made their strict lifestyles seem normal and desirable, as if they had a blueprint to God’s favor.

In 2011, before the shit hit the fan, I can remember being admonished by a high school friend when I criticized the Duggars on social media. In fact, my old friend pretty much quit communicating with me when I didn’t react with shame following her public chastisement. She indignantly wrote that she “loved” the Duggars. But then the skeletons started falling out of the closet. I don’t know how my friend feels about the Duggars now, or even if she remembers that she once criticized me for criticizing them. Knowing her for as long as I have, I suspect she doesn’t “love” them, or their image, as much as she did in 2011. The Duggars are certainly no longer that shining beacon of hope and prosperity that they once were. They’ve been tarnished by the worst kind of scandal, and it’s been perpetrated by the eldest child– the one who was supposedly “golden” and promoted as the straightest arrow in Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s quiver.

Here it comes… this may score the Duggars their highest ratings yet.

In May 2015, In Touch magazine published damning reports of how Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager in the early 2000s. Suddenly, the world heard about how Josh, who had grown up on television, and had a highly visible job promoting conservative “Christian family values”, was not the paragon of virtue he purported to be. Later, there were reports about how Josh had cheated on his wife, Anna, and met with a sex worker, with whom he was accused of having “violent sex”. Then it came out that Josh had a paid account with Ashley Madison, a Web site that is notorious for providing married people with the easy means of having affairs.

This aged terribly… Josh is such a scumbag.

What is so sad to me is that even though he did these horrible things, his sisters were basically forced to defend him. And, in fact, in their belief system, the girls were basically told that they were at fault for tempting their brother (and other males). They didn’t get any real help in recovering from the abuse. Instead, they were told to cover up and “keep sweet”. Meanwhile, their brother got away with what he was doing… at least until that bombshell dropped in 2015. And it’s only gotten worse as the years passed. He’s probably about to face a reckoning… God willing, anyway. 😉

Even with all of this proof of how “not Christ-like” Josh is, people still championed him. They fell for the image, rather than reality.

I think the below video is about when Jill started to separate from her toxic family. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of the things her husband, Derick Dillard, has said, I do think he’s done a lot to help her become healthier. She’s reportedly gone to counseling and, just this morning, it’s been reported that she may be called to testify against her brother in court. I pray she tells the whole truth.

The beginning of the end, back in 2015.

None of these stories are those one would expect of someone who is a strict Christian, as Josh was supposedly raised to be. I remember how, before all of this bad stuff came to light, the Duggar parents would proudly tell everyone about their “strict” Christian values. We all heard about how they didn’t allow their children access to television or the Internet. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were held up to be excellent parents. However, it’s pretty clear that they’ve failed spectacularly on many levels, in spite of their religious beliefs. And now, a lot of innocent people are paying the price.

Having observed this phenomenon, and having known some so-called “religious” people who have turned out to be total dirtbags, I am now convinced that strict, controlling religions can really damage, or even destroy, families. I have seen how charismatic people get in power and start to believe they are above the law. They invoke “God’s favor” to explain why they can and should be allowed to do terrible things. The people who are involved in the strict religious groups somehow accept and even cling to those beliefs, even when it puts them in danger and makes them miserable. And then it comes out that the so-called “leaders” are about as far from Christlike as a person can get.

Please note– I am not referring to mainstream religions that aren’t “culty” and controlling. I don’t think that most mainstream churches are that damaging. I base that on my own experiences growing up going to church. I mean the churches that dictate everything from how you will spend your free time to what kind of underwear you’re allowed to wear. Those religions don’t work well. The Duggars are just one example of how they can really fuck up an otherwise nice family. The Turpins are another egregious example. Later in this post, I will share an example of a non-famous family that has been damaged by religion and the bad behaviors promoted in the name of religion.

I grew up at a time when almost everyone I knew attended a church of some sort. I was raised mainstream Presbyterian, which is a fairly benign and undemanding denomination. We went to church on Sundays and my parents were very involved in the music programs. Mom was an organist and usually didn’t work at the church that my dad and I attended (my sisters had all moved out of the house). But I didn’t grow up with any strict religious rules or anything, and I wasn’t subjected to “worthiness” interviews with a pastor. No one ever asked me about my sexual habits or anything else that is super private like that. We didn’t even say “grace” at the table.

At some point during my young adulthood, people started becoming more polarized about religion. I noticed many people became very devout. A lot of megachurches started popping up, and people like Joel Osteen became extremely popular. Shows like 19 Kids and Counting were on television, promoting strict religious beliefs. On the other hand, I also noticed a lot more people identifying as atheists. And I noticed that while many people were going to church more often than ever, a lot of people had also completely abandoned religion.

Then I married my husband, who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when we met. When Bill and I first encountered each other, he claimed to be a “true believer”. Later, I found out that he actually wasn’t a TBM, but was going through the motions in an attempt to save his marriage to his ex wife. Ex supposedly was, at that time, devout. Or, she claimed to be, anyway. One thing is for certain, though. She used the church to hurt other people. I have noticed that Ex isn’t the only one who’s done this, either. I have known many high-conflict types who have invoked religion as excuses as to why they should be allowed to act like perfect assholes or, in the case of Josh Duggar and others, do illegal and immoral things. After all, Jesus always forgives, right?

A couple of days ago, I ran across a heartbreaking video by a YouTube personality called Exmo Lex. A few months ago, Exmo Lex, who is a former Mormon, posted a video about how her in-laws were calling her a “jezebel” behind her back. I watched that video when she posted it, although I’m not sure if I wrote about it. I happened to see it while we were in the Schwarzwald, so I’m not sure if I ever got around blogging about this. However, I do remember seeing this video and feeling terrible for Exmo Lex. She was describing a very toxic situation that was partially caused by religion.

Exmo Lex talks about her in-laws were calling her a “jezebel”. She and her husband were afraid that her in-laws were indoctrinating their children.

Exmo Lex indicates that she thought her in-laws were respecting the boundaries she and her husband set. They don’t want their kids indoctrinated or influenced by Mormonism, which is a strict religion. To me, that sounds very reasonable, but I also know that true believing Mormons are often very convinced that they alone have the “truth”. And when someone decides to break ranks because they no longer believe, or are unwilling to submit to “authority”, families can go on the attack. The battles can become very toxic and even illegal in a hurry, and as Exmo Lex points out, sometimes they aren’t above using children to further their agendas. In the video below, you can hear Exmo Lex talk about the aftermath of the decision she and her husband made to leave Mormonism and be public about their choices.

This video shocked me more than it probably should have. It’s not like I haven’t heard similar stories from people who have decided to go their own way from a strict religion. I think if I were Exmo Lex, I would get a restraining order, pronto. I hope she’s taking good notes, in case her in-laws try to get custody of her children, or something. Jeez!

So often, we hear about how “lovely” religious families are. They are promoted as close and loving, having each other’s backs. We see them well-scrubbed, singing pretty songs about religious faith, Jesus Christ, and God’s love. But then it turns out that religious people are as fallible as anyone is. That’s because everyone sins. But some religious people turn out to be the worst sinners of all– and they leave a lot of heartbroken, damaged, people in their wakes. Many times, people who have been hurt by religion are left with nothing, not even their so-called loving families.

I have heard and read so many sad stories of people who grew up in very strict religious families or belief systems. More often than not, rather than providing safety, comfort, and security with the knowledge that someone always has their back, people in these families are actually members of a mini-cult. They must engage in group thinking, and anyone who deviates from it is cast out. This is not what I would call loving or “Christlike” behavior. This is toxic control, and it’s very harmful.

I have written so many posts about this phenomenon, and I have learned that even when the belief systems are “different”, the mechanics of the highly controlling groups are surprisingly similar. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have different beliefs than Mormons do. But if you take a close look at the way their groups operate, you see that a lot of their control tactics are the same. Ditto for groups like the Cooperites of Gloriavale, The Way, the Children of God, and others. The groups all have that thing in common– once a person has seen beyond the smoke and mirrors and wants out, they are ostracized. Why? Because the rebels are a threat to the group’s power and resources. Those who won’t toe the line are treated as if they have a disease that can spread and kill everyone… or, at least kill the belief system, which a source of power, and often, money.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with believing in God or going to church, or following any other religion. It’s when religion turns into fanaticism or cultism with strict controls and legalism that I think problems arise. That’s when we start seeing supposedly “loving” parents turning on their own children, kicking them out of the family circle, and defending abusers instead of protecting victims. I would also argue that a lot of abusers started out as victims. I think Josh Duggar was a victim before he started hurting others. If he could have gotten some real help from someone other than Jim Bob Duggar’s fucked up fundie friends who are not any better than Josh is, maybe some of this tragic shitshow that is now commencing could have been avoided. Or, at least, it might not have been on such a public stage. Imagine how hard this is for his children, and all of the other innocent people who will be affected. Meanwhile, the public will revel in watching this legal drama unfold.

Jim Bob Duggar wearing a rare “sheepish” expression. The shit is hitting the fan.

I have to admit, I will also be watching to see how Josh’s case progresses. I am as interested as anyone is. It’s not because I delight in seeing his family humiliated, though… well, maybe I don’t mind seeing Jim Bob humiliated. I think it’s long overdue. I think Jim Bob is about as far from a decent Christian as a person can get. He hides behind the Christian facade, but it’s really about power and money for him, and his “reputation”. It’s certainly not about following Christ.

I do hope some good will come out of this latest chapter of the Duggar family saga. And I also hope that Exmo Lex and her husband are able to heal from the rift they’re experiencing. I think people should be loved for who they are, and allowed to follow their own beliefs, as long as no one else is harmed. I don’t think it’s harmful to grow up outside of religion or any other kind of extreme indoctrination. Maybe if more people were allowed to evolve naturally and authentically, we’d have fewer people hurting others.

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