Ex, LDS, mental health, travel

Home again, and ready to write up our trip to Antwerp… but first, more on the wild world of Ex.

I’m sure I could write one of my usual testy manifestos right now, but the travel blog beckons. I had a great time in Belgium. and am looking forward to sharing what I learned about Antwerp. But rest assured, I’ll be back to complaining on this blog very soon. 😉

At the very least, I can add some more complaints about Ex, who now claims that she’s a “senior dog rescuer”… but she NEEDS a puppy to train for her “severely autistic son”. And she begs for money to put up a fence, but also lacks the $12,000 she says she needs to train a dog. What will she do when the dog needs to go to the vet? How will she afford to feed it?

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, yes, she did used to have an elderly poodle named Fifi… but Fifi was definitely not better off for the experience, since #3 kicked her so hard that she lost an eye. What’s even scarier is that #3 works as a CNA. Maybe he’s better now, after twenty years. I’d still be leery of him as a healthy person, let alone as someone who needs nursing care. I hope he’s gotten better about controlling his temper.

But anyway, this is what she says…

I wish I could adopt a senior dog; I’ve always been a pound puppy mama. I cant this time. I have to find a puppy for my autistic child that will be trainable to take care of his emotional needs.

😭

I am going to put a fundraiser on PayPal!! I tried once to get help but no replies

Um no, Ex, you’ve not always been a “pound puppy mama”. And your “child” will be a grown man in three short years. You have also unsuccessfully tried to raise funds on PayPal at least twice, not just once. Give it up.

Yes, I know I sound really bitchy, but I think I’m owed. My husband is still trying to mend the relationship he and his younger daughter missed because of Ex’s selfishness and stupidity. We’re losing hope for older daughter, who is still the caregiver of Ex’s “severely autistic child”.

And she’s still stuck on Star Wars, which hardly makes her unique, but maybe if she spent less time tweeting about celebrities and more time earning money, she might not need to crowdfund.

Personally, I am LOVING the attention to detail and the explanations of the backstory of not just Obi-Wan, but Leia and Anakin… just gives us more depth the Vader’s character, don’t you think?

I never got into Star Wars myself. I know it’s very popular. Of course, I grew up with people talking about it all the time, so I am basically familiar. But if I had big goals like building a fence or getting a service dog for my “autistic child” (teenager), I would hope I’d be more focused on that.

One last thing before I move on to happier topics on my travel blog…

Aww Chris, you’re so cute. Ok, you can marry my daughter. There… it’s between you and #keanureeves . Oh wait… there is one more,. His name is on the tip of my tongue. (Will edit when I recall.)

Oh!!! Och aye!!! The third is

@SamHeughan zzzzzzzzz I’m falling asleep!!! Good grief !!

Which daughter does she mean? Her 19 year old pansexual daughter who just started college? Or her almost 31 year old daughter who has basically been working as Ex’s scullery maid? I’d be interested to know… ETA: Not that there’s ANYTHING at all wrong with being pansexual… it’s just that the daughter might have something to say about it, right? Maybe she’d rather date someone without a dick.

Meanwhile, younger daughter still feels alienated because she’s a devout Mormon, a belief system that Ex forced on the family and later abandoned. Ex now ridicules younger daughter for being a believer, even though she’s the one who made her go to church in the first fucking place! And she did that only so she could control/alienate Bill.

Yep… it’s a hell of a world Ex lives in… and I wouldn’t want to visit it. But I would like to visit Antwerp again, so I’m going to head over to the travel blog to explain why. And yes, on Monday, we did enjoy plenty of wine. In other words, it was an ordinary day, save for the flaming torch I got when I had dessert last night. 😉

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, relationships

“To have good friends, you must BE a good friend…”

When I was a junior at Longwood College (now Longwood University), I had a really nice roommate named Angie. I went through many roommates when I was in college– I think seven, in all. Angie and I got along the best; she was a very considerate person. I remember telling her I was really glad we were such good friends. And I remember that Angie said, “To have good friends, you must BE a good friend.” I was honored that she ever thought of me in that way, although I think that a lot of bad people wind up with good people in their lives.

I wish I could report that Angie and I are still in touch, but she sort of dropped off the face of the earth at some point around 2007. I don’t think she ever bothered with social media, which makes her smarter than a lot of people, including yours truly. I sometimes think about her and wonder how she is. I hope she’s doing well. I’m thinking of Angie this morning as I ponder something I saw on Ex’s Twitter feed this morning.

Although I think that in a perfect world, Angie’s quote would work well, I know for a fact that a lot of good people are super attractive to narcissists. Because many good people are more empathic than other people are, a lot of really selfish, mean-spirited, exploitative people do end up with good people in their spheres. Since empathic people are so concerned about the welfare of others, they wind up trapped in toxic relationships with narcissists. Even when a good person recognizes that they are being victimized by someone with nefarious intentions, they often still get trapped in situations in which no one can win.

Narcissists are experts at DARVO– that is Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. When they get called out for doing something shitty, they frequently gaslight their victims. Most narcissists, especially ones as old as Ex is, are very practiced at turning around an accusation so that the person being wronged and having the courage to speak up, ends up being the one who is demonized.

A couple of days ago, I posted about how narcissists will take revenge on those who hold them accountable. I wrote about how I think that the Sussexes may try to get even with the British Royal Family by becoming estranged and withholding access to the young Sussex children. That may or may not happen– as the British Royal Family is pretty powerful. However, I have also seen this dynamic happen in less famous and powerful families. One parent in a narcissistic family system feels entitled to weaponize the children and keep them from the other parent, or the opposing parent’s extended family. This is a means of temporarily maintaining control.

Of course, that happened to Bill, and when he tried to confront Ex about it, she accused him of being a terrible person who horribly abused her and their children. The reality is, he simply couldn’t take Ex’s abuse anymore. He didn’t want to live in poverty, do low-paid, second and third shift assembly line work in factories, and have his life completely controlled by a woman whose personality seemed to change by the hour. He didn’t want to deal with a woman who treated him like a sexual predator, when he couldn’t be further from being an abuser. In fact, the opposite was true. Most of all, he didn’t want to be married to someone who didn’t love and accept him for who he is. Ex wanted someone else, and she was constantly trying to get Bill to change who he was to suit her whims. Even when he did something different, Ex wasn’t satisfied. She would accuse him of trying to be cool, or something like that. Above all, her shit never stinks. It’s always someone else’s fault when something isn’t right.

My old friend, Ken Turetzky, has a great song about the “her shit don’t stink” phenomenon.

So, as you can see, Ex isn’t a good friend. And, it appears that she doesn’t have any good friends, either. This was what she lamented about on Twitter today.

It IS sad… and she’s right that she doesn’t trust people. But aside from that, in order to have good friends, you have to BE a good friend.

To be a good friend, you have to have good intentions. You can’t look at people and determine their worth only in terms of what they can do for you, or how they might influence other people. A quality friendship is based on mutual respect and admiration, honesty, and genuine regard and concern. There must be give and take, fairness, and consideration for the other person. I know for a fact, Ex isn’t a good friend. She doesn’t have consideration for other people. She is good enough at FAKING concern, but only toward people who don’t know her. Those who do get into her “inner circle” are eventually abused. And when they’ve had enough abuse and try to back away from the relationship, she accuses THEM of being abusive.

Unfortunately, if a person has been trapped in an abusive system like that long enough, their thinking can get distorted and they can experience “trauma bonding”. That is, the victim can attach to their abuser, not because the abuser is good to them, but because they are chasing the “high” of the good times, and they think they either “deserve” the abuse, or they can’t live without the abuser. Narcissistic abusers can be very charismatic and charming, and they can be convincing as they make the case that they’re victims. They are also very good at being threatening and foreboding. A narcissist won’t hesitate to tell a victim that if they leave the relationship, they’ll be left with nothing.

When I first met Bill, he made many alarming statements about his relationship with Ex. She had him believing that he was dangerous, and that he’d profoundly harmed her. He believed that the divorce was his fault, and he was sure that I would see the situation in the same way Ex presented it. But the more I got to know him, the more I realized that he is not an abuser at all. He’s an empath, and a very good friend to those who will allow him to be a friend. Although we do have occasional spats, they’re usually caused because he doesn’t want to be assertive and explicitly define his needs, not because he’s a mean, abusive person. And now that Bill talks to his daughter, we can see that he never was the whole problem. Ex treats her children– who are in her inner circle, at least for a time– just as badly as she treats her husbands. And I’m sure that if she ever has had a friend who got close, that friend was treated similarly badly. Ex keeps her relationships superficial for good reason. Because beneath the surface, it’s really ugly.

Hell, I have even experienced trauma bonding myself. A few years ago, I actually was against moving out of the house we rented from a very high-conflict landlady, because I worried that the next landlord could be even worse than she was. At least I knew what to expect from her, right? Of course, now I know that my thinking was skewed by four years of psychofuckery, and dealing with this very intrusive, manipulative, and controlling person whose dealings with us were dishonest and exploitative. Our current landlord is nowhere near as disrespectful and unfair as she was. Yes, we pay much more rent, but it’s totally worth it, because it’s a much nicer house, and we get to maintain our dignity and privacy. But I still marvel at how I had initially balked at moving because I was scared. That’s a form of trauma bonding.

The same “trauma bonding” dynamic happens in abusive friendships, marriages, employment, and romantic relationships. Narcissistic abusers can’t risk letting anyone get close, because then they will see the mess that lurks under the facade. It would be one thing if Ex was open to allowing someone to help her clean up the mess, but she can’t do that. She doesn’t trust anyone, and is fixated on a false reality that she’s created, because reality, to her, is simply too painful to acknowledge.

Likewise, now, when I look back on the four year period in which we rented a home from a high-conflict landlady, I realize that just like Ex, our former landlady was very focused on the external. Every project she undertook was about curb appeal and surface image. She never did anything, at least while we were living there, that would improve the actual experience of living in that house. We weren’t important, because we were already in the “inner circle”, and ripe for abuse. She wanted to attract new victims for when we were discarded. So all upgrading projects that were done while we were living in that house were done for cosmetic appeal or the landlady’s convenience. Moreover, it didn’t matter to her if we were inconvenienced as she completed these projects. I did read that after we left, and before she got new tenants, she updated a few things in the house– probably using the money that she illegally tried to rip off from us. But I’m sure those upgrades were minimal and mostly cosmetic. I doubt, for instance, that she bothered to put in a modern toilet that didn’t backup all the time. Instead, she got a new dishwasher. Dishwashers are great, but toilets are essential, and I think that having a toilet that doesn’t take two or three flushes to clear would be better than having a spiffy new dishwasher.

So anyway, I don’t think that Ex is a good friend, even on a casual basis. She isn’t capable of being a good friend, because she is much too fixated on herself. She’s not a good partner or a good parent, either, for the same reason. She was never able to psychologically mature beyond early adolescence. It’s really sad, actually. I would almost feel sorry for her, except that I know she has hurt people I love. Aside from that, I actually think that it’s rare to have a lot of extremely true friends who are very loyal. Those types of relationships are very special, and they have to be nurtured. That’s why I tend to hang out with dogs. 😉

Noyzi is a pretty good friend.
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divorce, Ex, lessons learned, mental health, psychology, YouTube

“Kicking the cat…” What happens when anger is displaced…

Many years ago, when I was a college student at what is now Longwood University, I took a course called Interpersonal Communication. I took it because I was pursuing minors in both speech and communications, and the course counted for both minors. I don’t remember being particularly excited about the class when I signed up for it, but it turned out to be an interesting field of study. I remember it to be an examination of how people communicate in different settings, and while it was not a psychology class, certain psychological terms and concepts were covered. In fact, even though I took Psychology 101 during my freshman year, I distinctly remember learning about the concept of psychological projection for the first time in my Interpersonal Communication course. It was also in that class that I first learned about “displaced anger”.

Although Dr. Nancy Anderson Haga, the professor who taught that class, has long since retired, I remember that she was among the very first professors I met at Longwood when I was a fresh high school graduate attending orientation. I was struck by how energetic, caring, and positive she was. Then a couple of years later, when I was about 20 years old, I was in her class, and she was teaching us about how we communicate with each other. I didn’t know then that one of her lessons would come back to me in bold relief, two weeks before my 50th birthday.

Last night, Bill watched a video his younger daughter sent to him. She was thanking him for a box of goodies he sent to her, with stuff we picked up on recent trips to France and Italy, as well as some very superior German chocolate. In the course of the video, younger daughter talked about how much she loves to cook. Bill also loves to cook. So do I… or, at least I did before Bill took over the job. I used to be a great cook, and always enjoyed it because it was a creative activity. There’s an art to making something taste good, look appetizing, and be nurturing. Actually, I’m not that good at making “pretty food”, but I am pretty good at making food that is comforting. Bill is also good at that, and he’s also a fan of good presentation. He’s been known to plate our dinners with flair.

Younger daughter talked about how one of her in-laws really loves fresh bread, and he likes to have it at every meal. She likes to bake, so she was thinking she might like to make some bread to take over to her husband’s family’s house. I like to bake bread too, especially when I’m in a bad mood and need to pound the shit out of something. Bread baking is great for that.

As she was talking about baking rolls from scratch, younger daughter stated that she wasn’t always sure if people appreciated her efforts. Then her face got very serious and pained, and she said, “The only person who has ever complained about my cooking is my mother.”

One time, she asked Bill if her mother (Ex) had ever complained about his cooking. Bill had replied, “Of course. All the time!” As he was telling me about talking to his daughter about this, he laughed. But I can imagine that when Ex criticized his cooking, it probably really hurt his feelings. Here he had taken the time and expended the effort to make something nourishing for his ex wife, and her only thought was to disdain it in a mean way. Younger daughter then related a story that, frankly, I found heartbreaking. I could also see that telling us the story was making her feel bad anew, even though the incident had happened years ago.

Younger daughter and her older sister were tasked to cook for the whole family. If they didn’t cook, food wouldn’t be made, and someone would probably get into trouble. She explained that Ex and #3 were going through a particularly lean financial period. Consequently, there was very little food in the house. And yet, it was younger daughter’s implied duty to make dinner every night. There she was, faced with the task of making dinner for seven people, but there simply wasn’t much food in the house to accomplish that goal.

Younger daughter looked around to see what there was on hand to make dinner. She found frozen pie crust, instant mashed potatoes, some frozen vegetables, and a single chicken breast. Perfect! She could make a shepherd’s pie, of sorts. That would have been what both Bill and I would have done in that situation. It was quite genius, and she was able to make something edible and probably even tasty.

Younger daughter put together the pie, and was feeling pretty good and accomplished. Then Ex came home from wherever she’d been during the day. Younger daughter proudly presented the pie she had created out of the few ingredients in the house. Ex’s response was to declare it disgusting, refuse to eat, and lock herself in her bedroom for the rest of the evening.

I could tell that relating that story was very painful for younger daughter. But then she brightened and said she was grateful for where she is now. Ex no longer has the power over her that she once had. Like Bill, younger daughter was able to escape the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt). But the scars remain, and I know how that feels. Sometimes, old memories still come up that bring on the pain from the past.

Of course, Bill was pretty angry when he heard that story. I don’t know exactly when the incident happened, but it sounds like it might have occurred when Ex was still being paid child support. I believe younger daughter got the hell out of her mother’s house as soon as she could after turning 18. Either way, it was Ex’s responsibility to see that there was food in the house, and to make sure her children had enough to eat. Complicating matters was the fact that she wouldn’t allow Bill to help his daughters. She was too angry with him for that. We didn’t know this was going on, because they couldn’t and wouldn’t talk to Bill during that time. If Bill had known about this, he would have taken action. In retrospect, we should have taken action when she refused to let him communicate with his kids, but it seemed like it would have been a waste of time, since they were teenagers.

And that’s where the lesson about “displaced anger” comes into play. I remember learning about the concept in that college class at Longwood, and that’s why I titled this post “kicking the cat”. Displaced anger– otherwise known as “misplaced anger”– is when a person deals with their anger by directing it at a less threatening cause. It can take different forms. For instance, a person who was raised in an abusive home, with a parent who beat them, might try to soothe themselves by saying that it was okay that their parent hit them, since “that was how things were back in the day”. Or they might say, “he or she was just trying to make me tougher.” Meanwhile, the righteous anger is boiling under the surface, and it comes out against someone or something that is less able to fight back.

I remember in my Interpersonal Communication class, as she was explaining “displaced anger”, Dr. Haga talked about a man who comes home from work, angry with his boss for acting like a jerk. Instead of addressing the jerk boss, since that doesn’t feel like a safe thing to do, the man kicks his cat. Or he gets drunk and verbally abusive, and beats on his wife. Or he snaps at his daughter that the dinner she made looks and tastes like shit. Or maybe, if he’s a really sick and violent person, he takes the family dog out to the desert and shoots it (sadly, I do remember hearing and writing about a man who did this when he was angry with his wife).

It doesn’t matter that expressing anger in this way is harmful to innocent people or animals. The anger feels like it has to come out, and it doesn’t feel possible for the man to direct it toward the appropriate person, so the man directs it at individuals who seem weaker and less threatening. I grew up in a home where I often got abused by angry people– especially my dad and one of my sisters. They would often take their anger out on me, because I was the youngest and, at least for a long time, the weakest. Usually, the anger doesn’t really dissipate, though, especially when there are consequences for expressing anger in such a way. I will also admit that I have expressed anger inappropriately by directing it toward the wrong source. I now try to do better, as much as I’m able. Therapy is a good thing.

Last week, I wrote a post about how I’ve gotten hooked on Code Blue Cam, a YouTube channel devoted to police work. In a lot of the videos, the perpetrators who get busted are clearly mentally ill or under the influence of something. A lot of times, they are also very angry and agitated. I watched a video this morning that featured a man who was extremely belligerent and defiant. The police were trying to be kind and helpful, but this man was consumed with rage. He was extremely abusive toward the police, as well as the civilians who were involved in the altercation which caused the police to be summoned in the first place.

This video begins with a drunk woman who gets hauled off to jail, but it ends with the belligerent man, whose tone goes from extremely rude and defiant, to desperate and pleading.

I found the above video kind of hard to watch… but it was also kind of fascinating, because before the guy was put in handcuffs, he was a complete asshole. I sat there wondering what in the world had happened to him that had caused him to seethe with so much rage. But then, when he was finally arrested and placed in handcuffs, his tone became pathetic. He openly said on more than one occasion that he hoped the police would just shoot him. This is a miserable person with deep problems and a lot of unprocessed anger, which was coming out inappropriately. It wasn’t that different than Ex being nasty to younger daughter for making something she didn’t want to eat for dinner.

Another video, this time involving young men who were in deep trouble and expressing negativity in a destructive way. One of the young men openly expresses disappointment in himself and how his life has turned out… and says he wishes the cops would kill him. He obviously needs help.

Maybe the teens in the above video were trying to be manipulative. I think the guy in the first video was very manipulative, and if these two young guys in the above video don’t get some real help, they will wind up like him and either spend a lot of time in prison or get themselves killed. But I could hear real anguish in their voices. Bad things happened to them that led them to where they are now, and unfortunately, they weren’t able to find the kind of help they needed to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the law.

I have no doubt in my mind that Ex has experienced some really terrible things in her life. I know that she suffered horrific abuse when she was growing up. I’m pretty certain that she’s an extremely angry person, and that anger stems from the people in her life who failed her when she was a child. I think she’s also angry with Bill. He probably had her thinking he could heal her and solve her problems. Bill is a very kind, nurturing, loving and gentle person. I know this for a fact, because I’m his second wife. He doesn’t have a mean or violent bone in his body. However, like most people, he does have a red line, and if you cross it, he’ll be done with you. I think Ex thought she would never reach that red line, because he is such a kind and patient man. But she did reach it, and he decided he was done. So, when she presented divorce papers to him in a very dramatic and manipulative drama held over Easter at Bill’s dad’s house, she never expected that he would agree that their marriage was over and offer to sign the papers. He went off script.

Ex was expecting Bill to say, “No, we won’t have any of that…” and try even harder to please her. That was what he’d done in the past. But, after almost ten years, he was just done. He had gotten away from her toxic influence while they were separated, and realized that there’s life beyond divorce. He found out that he didn’t have to live the way he’d been living. He knew he wouldn’t be alone, and that being broke was temporary. So he called her bluff, and fucked up her vision of what was supposed to happen. She had to adjust, and I think wound up with someone who was even less suitable for her. But she’s smart enough not to threaten divorce with #3, because it’s doubtful she’d find a #4. Or, at least she won’t be able to hook someone by having kids with them.

But she was still left with two tangible remnants from their marriage– their two daughters. So she decided to keep the girls away from Bill, as a means of punishing him for “abandoning” her. At the same time, she treated them particularly badly, because they probably remind her of Bill. As younger daughter got older, she started to develop the same kind of self-preservation skills that Bill has. She started to go off script, and she rebelled. Ex responded by being inappropriately angry. She “kicked the cat”– in this case, younger daughter– instead of finding a healthier and more appropriate outlet for her rage. Instead of being grateful that younger daughter had managed to cobble together dinner with very few ingredients, which were ultimately Ex’s responsibility to provide, Ex was angry and mean. And now, I think she’s paying a price, since it’s obvious that younger daughter is now alienated from her mom.

Younger daughter ended her video call on a happy note. She said she was so grateful to the other people in her life who are kind and considerate. She even said she was grateful to me, of all people. That made me feel really good. For years, I was angry with her and her sister, because I know their dad, and I know he was “kicked” by Ex for years. Now I have empathy for them, because I know they’ve felt the pain from Ex’s proverbial shoe, too. They have been on the receiving end of her misplaced anger. Thankfully for younger daughter, she’s managed to develop the skills to get out of the strike zone. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the people who have chosen to stay around Ex are paying for the independence of those who have left. I can only hope that someday, older daughter will get out of the strike zone, too.

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book reviews, celebrities, mental health, psychology

My review of River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope, by Naomi Judd

It’s hard to believe that a month ago, country music legend Naomi Judd, the maternal half of country music mother-daughter act, The Judds, was still among the living. I was in Italy at the time, enjoying an eagerly anticipated vacation. I was shocked, like so many others were, when I heard of her sudden death on April 30, 2022. Although they weren’t saying it at the time, it was pretty clear that she took her own life. It came out that Naomi Judd had suffered for many years with terrible, untreatable depression and anxiety. And, although she and her daughter, Wynonna, were to be honored for their musical achievements the very next day, Naomi simply couldn’t face life anymore.

Megyn Kelly interviews Naomi Judd about her depression, and her book, River of Time.

I was not a huge fan of The Judds, during their heyday. I do enjoy their music very much now, and I have a few of their greatest hits compilations. I read Naomi’s first book, Love Can Build A Bridge, which was published in the 90s, when Naomi was forced to temporarily retire due to her diagnosis of Hepatitis C. I also saw the made for TV movie based on that book. I also once saw Wynonna perform at a U.S. Army Birthday Ball. But, I am not a super fan of The Judds’ music, and wasn’t following news about them when Naomi died. I didn’t know about Naomi’s struggles with mental illness, and until my friend and fellow blogger, Alex, mentioned it in a comment, I also didn’t know that in 2016, Naomi published a book about her experiences with severe depression and anxiety. Although Naomi’s story clearly turned out to be less victorious than the book’s title, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope suggests, I decided to delve into it.

I read Naomi Judd’s book for several reasons. First off, I too, have suffered from clinical depression and anxiety myself, and I understand why it seemed so hard to beat it, because I remember how it made me feel. I was fortunate, in that my depression was treatable with talk therapy and Wellbutrin SR. It does, on occasion, rear its head again, but for the most part, I am much better than I once was. Secondly, I am a musician. No, I am not a “star”, and at this point in my life, I will probably never be a star… and frankly, I probably would not WANT to be a star, anyway. But I do make music, and I admire Naomi’s talents as a singer and songwriter. Thirdly, I come from similar, salt-of-the-earth, family stock. I didn’t know it when I started reading River of Time, but I could really relate to a lot of Naomi Judd’s comments about her family, and how people in her family made her feel. I’ll get more into that as this review progresses.

River of Time reads as if it comes straight from Naomi, but in fact, it was ghost written by author, Marcia Wilkie. I appreciated that this book really seemed to come from Naomi Judd’s heart, and I never noticed an intrusion by a professional writer. Some people felt that the book “jumped around a lot” and was “repetitive”. Personally, I didn’t find that an issue, but again, it did seem to me that this was a book coming from Naomi, rather than Marcia Wilkie. I see that at this writing, the book is offered on Kindle for $1.99, probably because ultimately, Naomi succumbed to her depression and committed suicide. I still think it’s well worth reading, for MANY reasons. So here goes…

Naomi Judd’s early years never suggested the great heights she would eventually reach…

Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky on January 11, 1946. Naomi describes Ashland as a “grey”, ugly, industrial city. Her parents were poor, and not at all loving or demonstrative. Naomi made excellent grades in school and was a talented pianist, but her parents barely noticed. However, whenever she got any negative feedback from school officials, her father was quick to get out his belt and “whip” her. Naomi writes that she used to “borrow” her mother’s stiff rubber girdle when her father wanted to use the belt. She’d go to the bathroom, put on the girdle, and let him go to town, while she “hollered” like she was in pain. Apparently, he never caught on to Naomi’s ruse.

In this book, Naomi never refers to her original first name, or Wynonna’s. Wynonna was born Christina Claire Ciminella, although Naomi’s husband at the time of Wy’s birth was not her biological father. Wynonna was conceived when Naomi was seventeen years old, during Naomi’s very first sexual experience. She had a one night stand with a football player, she’d known in high school, a man named Charles Jordan. Naomi explains that she and Jordan got together for their tryst, because Naomi’s brother, Brian, was dying of leukemia. Naomi was very close to Brian, and she was feeling alone and vulnerable. As a lot of young girls do during their teen years, Naomi must have felt that connecting with a young man would make her feel loved and valued. Unfortunately, Charles Jordan abandoned Naomi, as soon as he found out about the pregnancy. Naomi quickly married Michael Ciminella, Ashley’s biological father, because Naomi’s mother, Polly, kicked her out of the family home.

Michael Ciminella’s family was sort of well off, and they lived a more comfortable lifestyle than Naomi’s family did. But Mrs. Ciminella was extremely obsessive about cleanliness and order. Naomi writes that when Wynonna was a baby, her mother-in-law had totally sanitized the whole house, and insisted that everyone wear masks and gloves before handling the baby. Even Naomi was expected to comply.

Naomi and Michael eventually moved to Los Angeles, California, where Ashley was born in April 1968. But the marriage didn’t last, and Naomi was soon raising her young girls by herself, with almost no help from Ciminella. After the divorce, Naomi reclaimed her maiden name and took the opportunity to change her first name, too. She enrolled in nursing school and eventually became a registered nurse. Unfortunately, when she was 22, Naomi was stalked by a violent, ex-con heroin addict, who beat and raped her. Still, somehow Naomi persevered and managed to launch her career in nursing. Meanwhile, she and Wynonna developed their musical chops, and eventually moved to Nashville, where they finally got their big break. Wynonna was eighteen years old when The Judds were on their way, but she and Ashley had still experienced a hardscrabble childhood, as their mother did everything she could to ensure their survival.

Naomi’s life heads south…

The Judds were wildly successful in the 1980s. They had fifteen #1 hit songs, and won dozens of music industry awards. Things seemed poised to continue in that direction, when Naomi started feeling ill. She went to a doctor, who told her that she had contracted Hepatitis C. She was told that her liver was “almost cirrhotic”, and that she had about three years to live. Fortunately, the medical establishment was wrong about her prognosis, but the diagnosis did force Naomi to retire in 1991. The Judds did a huge pay per view concert, which was a very successful event. Naomi eventually remarried in 1989, this time to Larry Strickland, a member of the Palmetto State Quartet, and former backup singer for Elvis Presley.

Although Naomi Judd had achieved great success in music, and also found the love of her life, she experienced extreme episodes of depression that left her feeling suicidal. So she did what wise people do when they feel sick. She saw a Nashville area psychiatrist. The psychiatrist did what a lot of psychiatrists do, when it comes to treating depression. He put her on antidepressants. She went through a huge list of them, and at times, she was never properly tapered off before the next drug was tried. Her doctor also prescribed the anti-anxiety medication, Klonopin. I took Klonopin myself at one time. Fortunately, it did nothing for me, and I quit taking it with ease. A lot of people get addicted to Klonopin, and other benzodiazepines. Naomi did, as did Stevie Nicks. Both women said that the drug destroys creativity and ambition.

The psychiatric drugs, and their lack of efficacy, along with the lack of talk therapy, made Naomi’s situation worse. She eventually landed in a psychiatric hospital at Vanderbilt University to be weaned off of the psychiatric drugs using IV phenobarbital. That was the first of several stays at mental health facilities, to include the psych ward at UCLA, as well as some posh rehab centers. She describes these experiences as if they were all horrifying– even the really plush, luxurious psych hospital was oppressive and terrifying. Eventually, she was able to get treatment from Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, a renowned psychiatrist at Mass General, in Boston. However, it was in Boston that she had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which used shock waves to improve. A lasting side effect from that treatment was the destruction of her ability to enjoy the taste of food. While ruining her sense of taste helped her lose weight, it also made one of her passions, cooking, a lot less enjoyable. She couldn’t even eat the treats she would make for others, because it all tasted “putrid”.

Still, Naomi Judd did find help when she discovered dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is a technique discovered by psychologist, Marsha Linehan. Naomi explains how the technique helped to center her and improved her mental health. DBT is a technique that is often suggested for people who aren’t helped by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a well-known method for treating depression. As of 2016, Naomi did seem to be very edified by DBT. Unfortunately, we now know that the help she received from DBT was temporary. She never lost her urge to end her life.

Naomi also writes a lot about her family of origin. There was a lot of tragedy in her personal history, some of which came before she was even born. Some of her blood relatives were legitimately severely mentally ill, and more than a couple of folks were real criminals. Indeed, Naomi’s granddaughter, Grace Pauline Kelley, has done time in prison for drug offenses. As I read about Naomi’s grandmother, Edie Mae, who allegedly killed her husband, Howard (who had almost been killed by his own dad, when he was a child), I could definitely see a pattern.

Other people’s reactions to this book…

I took a look at the reviews on Amazon, to see what others thought of Naomi’s story about her mental illness. A lot of people wrote that they found River of Time “depressing”, and they described Naomi as engaging in a “pity party”. Some people wrote that they felt this book was a plea for attention.

Having now read River of Time, I guess I can understand why some people didn’t like the book. The truth is, Naomi’s life was depressing. She came from a family where there was a lot of mental illness and abuse. Naomi was sexually abused when she was very young, and she was not treated with love, consideration, or kindness when she was growing up. And so, it stands to reason that her true story is sad, and it should not be surprising to anyone that there are many depressing elements to Naomi’s life story. She had severe DEPRESSION, for God’s sake. What were people expecting? I do think that anyone who reads this book should NOT be expecting a chirpy book about how beautiful life is. That would be very disingenuous.

I mentioned earlier in this review that I can relate to Naomi’s story. My early years weren’t nearly as traumatic as hers were, by any stretch. But I grew up with an alcoholic father, as she did, and my father’s method of discipline was usually the corporal punishment kind. While I think my mom was more loving that Naomi’s was, she was somewhat cold and uninterested in me, especially when my dad was still alive. Mom is very different now, but when I was a kid, she was rather neglectful. And so, I could relate to Naomi’s yearning to have some acknowledgement from her parents, and other people in her family. I think that “pity party”, “whiny”, and “attention seeking” aspect of her writing that some people don’t like, was actually a facet of her illness. Her parents were, in part, responsible for the condition was was in… and make no mistake about it, it WAS a very real, physical, and mental illness that she couldn’t help. But at least she did TRY to get better, which is more than a lot of people can say. And she was fortunate enough to be able to consult some of the biggest and most successful people in the business. She was even friends with Maya Angelou.

I think the negative comments she got in Amazon reviews came from people who, bless their hearts, just don’t have a clue! They have not experienced depression themselves, so they don’t understand why Naomi, with all she had going for her in life, simply couldn’t snap out of it and be happy. They see her as selfish and self-indulgent, and don’t understand that she experienced real torment. Obviously, that torment was what led her to kill herself at age 76, even as she and Wynonna were about to be honored again. And no, she wasn’t the better singer in The Judds, but she was clearly a big part of the duo’s success. Wynonna was probably destined to be a star, but there’s no denying that her mom helped her on her way. I can understand why Naomi felt that she was left behind, and why that would be one of the many causes of her depression. On the other hand, she also accomplished a lot on her own, and somehow, those accomplishments evidently didn’t raise her opinion of herself, or her life.

Overall…

I’m glad I read River of Time. It is a sad book, and it does have the capability of being depressing, but to me, Naomi’s story felt authentic. I could relate so much to a lot of what she wrote. My heart went out to her, on more than a couple of occasions, and I even felt a little verklempt at times when I read this. I really wish that she could have conquered her demons, and enjoyed her life until its natural end. As we all know, that wasn’t to be. Depression CAN be deadly, though, and her story is a stark reminder of that verifiable fact. It’s easy for people to look at someone else’s life and think they have no reason to be sad, or to complain about anything. I would urge people not to make those kinds of judgments. When it comes down to it, you never know what kind of hell someone might be experiencing privately. Life is tough for most people… even famous, beautiful, talented, and rich people, like Naomi Judd was. I hope wherever her soul is now, she’s finally at peace.

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law, mental health, politicians, politics, racism, Texas, true crime

Enough pro-life platitudes! Texas Has Its Priorities Completely Screwed Up!

Early this morning, I woke up to the horrible news about Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It’s another school shooting, this time perpetrated by a lonely, bullied, obviously mentally ill young man named Salvador Rolando Ramos. Days after his 18th birthday, Mr. Ramos legally purchased the weapons he would use to shoot and critically wound his grandmother, and then go on a shooting rampage at the elementary school. Mr. Ramos, who wore body armor and carried a rifle during his deadly rampage, was fatally shot, apparently by police.

At this writing, at least nineteen children were murdered, along with two adults. Both adults who died were teachers; one was Irma Garcia, a teacher with 23 years of experience at Robb Elementary, while the other, Eva Mireles, had taught for 17 years, and had a daughter in college. Many other people have been physically injured, and will forevermore carry the emotional and physical scars from yesterday’s shooting spree. The rest of us– the decent ones, anyway, are injured by yet another senseless school shooting in a country that professes to be “the land of the free”. And this time, the shooting happened in a state that professes to be so “pro-life” that many of its citizens will do almost anything to force women to stay pregnant.

The “right to life” crew, many of whom are men, claim that a developing fetus’s right to be born is more important than anything. The claim that abortion is cruel and inhumane. But at least a developing embryo is completely unaware of its being aborted. Children sitting in classrooms– some of whom were probably conceived with help from modern scientific reproductive methods– were no doubt absolutely terrified when Ramos opened fire on them. For those kids, Texas Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers”, and ridiculous suggestions about arming teachers and “good guys with guns”.

I am technically a Texas resident, although I haven’t lived there since 2014. Every year, when I cast an absentee ballot with my votes, the ballot goes to Texas, which is where Bill and I happened to be living when he finished his service with the Army. I didn’t hate Texas when I left there. I thought it was too hot, and there were way too many religious wingnuts. I didn’t like the extremely right wing politics of people in Texas, nor did I enjoy all the gun toting wackos I saw in downtown San Antonio. But I kind of respected Texas’s free-spirited culture. I enjoyed most of the people I met there, the music, the food, and having temporary access to members of my family, and Bill’s mom and aunt. When we left in 2014, I thought maybe we could move back at some point. Now I know that I don’t want to live there again. In fact, I’m not sure I really want to live in the United States again.

In the almost eight years since we left Texas, I have come to really dislike a lot of things about it. I despise the politics of Governor Greg Abbott and his relentless attack on women, as he also champions gun lovers. I can’t wait to cast a vote against Mr. Abbott. I don’t really care too much about who runs against him, either, which is a pretty terrible place to be. I would like to care about and even like the politics of the people who run for public office. But lately, the people who are running are so incredibly lacking in sense that I find myself voting AGAINST people, instead of for them.

According to the Washington Post, Salvador Ramos was severely bullied by his peers for having a strong lisp and a stutter. He had friends when he was younger, but then started doing self-destructive things, like cutting up his face with a knife “for fun”. Still, his friends said he was a very nice kid– shy, but nice. He’d be bullied for being different, but he had a few friends who stuck by him. Things seemed to go really downhill for Ramos when he shared a picture of himself wearing black eyeliner. For that, he was bullied by his peers and called a derogatory term for a homosexual male. Then, one of the friends who would try to stand up for Ramos, left the area when his mother’s job was transferred. At that point, Ramos began to dress all in black, grow out his hair, and wear military style boots. He quit going to school. At night, he and a friend would drive around and shoot at people with BB guns. He’d also egg people’s cars. He told one new friend that he wanted to join the Marines so he could “kill people”. The new friend became an ex friend after that.

Ramos’s mother eventually tried to kick him out of their home, and Ramos posted about it on Instagram. The incident showed Ramos calling his mom a “bitch”, as police intervened to break up the fight.

Ramos had a wish list of automatic weapons he wanted. A few days ago, he posted a picture of himself with a couple of rifles. There were some people who tried to help him, in spite of his odd proclivity for guns, but Ramos’s home life was terrible. According to a neighbor, Ramos’s mother used drugs. He eventually moved in with his grandmother, who owned the house where Ramos lived with his mom. A few days ago, the neighbor saw the grandmother, who mentioned that she was in the process of evicting Ramos’s mother, because she was abusing drugs.

I read all of this stuff, and I wonder how much help Ramos got from people who could do something for him. Did he ever speak to counselors? Was he encouraged to address his mental health and educational issues? At this point, I don’t know. I don’t want to blame educators, because I know they’ve got enough to deal with every day. And while it would be easy to blame people who bullied Ramos at school, being bullied is not a reason for someone to go on a shooting spree. I wonder what life situations led to Salvador Ramos’ fatal decisions yesterday.

I think these kinds of stress related meltdowns will only get worse, as guns are promoted as a solution to ending violence and maintaining “freedom”, and desperate women are being compelled to be pregnant when they aren’t ready to have babies. How many troubled women will be forced to give birth, thanks to the idiotic bans on abortions? I believe that people like Salvador Ramos evolve because they have very fucked up home lives, and not enough is done to help them make things better. There are too many children being born into situations where there’s substance abuse, sexual abuse, violence, racism, and poverty.

I haven’t even touched on the horrific gun fueled rampage that happened at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on May 14th. That incident, which occurred at the hands of Peyton S. Gendron, a disgruntled 18 year old racist White guy with a gun, resulted in the premature deaths of ten people and the wounding of three. Eleven of Gendron’s victims were Black. Gendron survived his rampage, and is now in protective custody and on suicide watch. If the police hadn’t stopped him when they had, Gendron says that he would have shot more people. He’d had plans to visit churches and an elementary school. As awful as Gendron’s attack was, at least his victims were all adults. But that doesn’t make it much better, does it?

I’m so tired of violent, thuggish, Republican bullies with guns and big mouths. I’m so angry at people who champion narcissistic cretins like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the usual gang of idiots in the Republican National Committee. No, I don’t think Democrats are perfect, by any stretch. I don’t like extreme left wing politics, snooty attitudes, and lack of common sense some Democrats have. But at least Democrats have something to offer besides thoughts, prayers, more guns, and restrictions on abortion. This news just makes me sick… and it makes me feel an odd mixture of relief that, for now, I live outside of my country, and guilt, that I’m so far away, watching from a distance as the United States I’ve always known turns into a weird dystopia.

It’s hard to believe that a lot of us were looking forward to today, as Josh Duggar finds out his fate. I was also looking forward to finding out more about Tariq Witherspoon, the man who ran over and killed my friend, Matt, last year. He supposed to go to court in New York today. Those were two cases of callous, lawless men facing their crimes. But I sit here and think of how many people have died in the last two years… from COVID-19, cancer, murder, manslaughter and recklessness, and suicide. And we want to bring more babies into this mess? When we don’t even have enough formula to feed them? We can’t offer citizens decent, affordable healthcare, housing, or an infrastructure that doesn’t collapse as the climate becomes less hospitable to humans! Why in the hell would we want more innocent babies born into this hellish reality on Earth?

In a matter of days, Bill’s third grandson will be born. He will join his four year old brother and two year old sister. I worry about those kids, who are going to be growing up in a country that continues to grow more troubled by the year. I know how much their parents love them, and have wanted them to come into the world. I only hope that by the time they’re ready for school, more has been done to repair the serious issues that are causing little kids like them to die when all they’re trying to do is go to school, attend church, shop for food, or just be children, exploring the world.

I’m so glad I never had children. This world is completely fucked. Below is an “oldie but goodie” Facebook post that was making the rounds six years ago, and is sadly still very relevant.

Yeah. I am for shutting down the gun stores.
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