poor judgment, psychology, teen help

Repost: How a Facebook chat convinced me to get VPN access…

Here’s a repost from my original blog. I wrote it in February 2019, about a week before I felt the need to shut down access to that blog because I was being stalked. As I sit here this morning, thinking about what I’d like to write about, I realize that this post was a pretty good one, especially in the wake of Paris Hilton’s revelations about Provo Canyon School. I like to transfer some of the better content from my original blog to this blog when I can. Despite what my stalker and her friends think about me, some of the stuff I write is useful to others. I think this post is one of the useful ones.

As I write this, my husband is probably taxiing to the gate at the Frankfurt Airport.  He’s been gone all week, and I’ve been filling my time with whatever I can.  I watched movies, including Small Sacrifices, which killed about three hours, The Ryan White StoryRight to Kill, and Catherine: An Anorexic’s Tale.  I also watched the premiere episode of Glee, which aired when we lived in Germany the first time.

I was able to watch Glee and The Ryan White Story because I decided to purchase access to a VPN, and that gave me access to American Netflix.  I decided to get the VPN because I’m tired of dealing with geographical restrictions on news stories.  I like to keep up with what’s going on at home.  Unfortunately, the paper I grew up reading, Daily Press, is behind in complying with the privacy laws of Europe.  Consequently, whenever I want to read something on their Web site, I get a message that the content isn’t available in my location.

I used to have a VPN account.  I got it when we first moved back to Stuttgart in 2014, mainly so I could watch Netflix.  But then Netflix started cracking down on VPNs and German Netflix was offering some pretty good shows, anyway.  I cancelled the VPN and mostly didn’t miss it.  What prompted me to get a new account with a different company was a conversation I had on Facebook.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about all of the made for TV movies I’ve been watching this week.  One movie I watched was called Without Consent.  It starred a young Jennie Garth, and was about a privately owned psychiatric hospital for teenagers that basically abused them for insurance money.  I mentioned in my post that this was a big issue in the late 1980s and early 90s.  Psych care for “troubled teens” was a very big business in those days.  It probably still is, but I will admit that I don’t follow that issue as much as I used to.

One of my friends mentioned that she had spent time in one of those facilities.  I got the impression that maybe my description of the movie, Without Consent, had offended her.  I had intended the post to be kind of silly and fun, but you never know how you’ll come across, particularly to people who are sensitive to an issue.

Anyway, as we were chatting, I mentioned Charter Colonial Institute, which was a private psychiatric hospital in Newport News, Virginia.  I grew up not far from Newport News, and I knew of a few of my peers who went there.  It always had kind of a mystique about it.  Sometimes, when I worked at Busch Gardens in James City County, Virginia, I’d take a route to work that caused me to pass that hospital.  I knew its tree lined campus was secure, located very close to Warwick Boulevard and the river.  Charter was such a ubiquitous company in those days; young people would simply speak of “going to Charter” and people would know what they were talking about.

A vintage ad for one of Charter’s many private psychiatric hospitals.  Charter Colonial Institute aired similar ones in my area back in the 80s.

Several years later, Charter’s burgeoning business began to falter.  The hospital changed hands and it was known as Colonial Hospital for a few years.  Then Colonial Hospital went away… and for the past few years, that same “secure” building has been known as Newport News Behavioral Health Center, which is a privately run facility.  I was curious to learn more about what was going on there, so I started searching.  I ran across a couple of news articles from the Daily Press.  Of course, they were blocked in Germany, so I used the cell access on my iPad to start reading, which makes it look like I’m in New York.  But then I ran out of free articles…

I found some news about a young woman named Raven Nichole Keffer.  She was seventeen years old last June, when she arrived in Newport News for treatment for an addiction to heroin.  Born in Montgomery County, Virginia back in 2001, and in the custody of rural Giles County, she had recently spent time in Arlington, Virginia getting treatment for her drug problems before she was sent to Newport News.  For at least a week, she’d complained of feeling sick, but the staff evidently ignored her symptoms and complaints.  Keffer had trouble walking, breathing, and eating.  She even vomited blood at one point.  Still, for some reason, the staff at the center did nothing for her, and she apparently languished for just over a week before someone finally did something.  It came out later that some staff members felt Raven was drug seeking, and that’s why they didn’t call for help.  

On June 29th, 2018, Keffer collapsed at Newport News Behavioral Health Center.  An ambulance was called, and Keffer was taken to Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News.  It was there that she died a few hours later, officially at 10:33pm.  A staff member at the center mentioned to one of the first responders who had picked up Raven that she’d been sick all week and nothing had been done for her.

After I read about Raven in the Daily Press, I found a more detailed account on WAVY TV 10’s Web site.  That site was also blocked for me in Europe, but thanks to the VPN, I was able to hear her family members speak on video about what had happened.  To add insult to injury, Raven’s body was cremated about ten days after she’d died.  Her family was notified after the fact.

In October of 2018, investigators determined that staff members at Newport News Behavioral Health Center violated 13 state regulations in Raven Keffer’s case.  From the beginning, it appears that her even being at the center was inappropriate.  Raven Keffer had been recently hospitalized before she was admitted to the Newport News Behavioral Health Center and, according to its own admissions guidelines, Keffer should not have been admitted there.  The center’s admissions policy states that it doesn’t “accept patients who are addicted to drugs and need medical care for detoxing”.

Officially, Raven Keffer died of natural causes stemming from complications from lymphocytic adrenalitis, an auto-immune disorder that affects glands that produce adrenaline.  But she also had a serious heroin addiction that had required her to seek hospital care just prior to her admission to the center in Newport News.  Discharge instructions from the hospital where she’d been on June 13th indicated that she would need a follow up visit and perhaps surgery.  However, it’s clear that no one in Newport News did anything to arrange follow up care for Raven.  Her initial admissions paperwork was never even completed; there were several items left blank.

Video surveillance footage shows Raven being helped to see a nurse practitioner.  She had a registered nurse and a fellow patient supporting her, since she couldn’t walk unaided.  Once they reached the nurse practitioner’s office, the nurse walked away, leaving Raven to lean on the patient.  The nurse later left the unit and the other patient was shown on video dragging Raven across the room on a comforter.

In the wake of this fiasco, there’s been re-training at the center.  The nurse who abandoned Raven has been fired.  However, in November of 2018, the Newport News Behavioral Health Center was in the news again.  This time, it was because Child Protective Services in Newport News reported that a juvenile male at the facility was assaulted by a staff member.  The employee allegedly “punched the patient about the face, pushed him, and grabbed him”.  Other staff members tried to intervene and the patient was treated for injuries.  CPS noted that he had bruises on his face and marks on his neck and on an arm.

According to the news articles I’ve read, Paul Kirkham is the CEO of Newport News Behavioral Health Center.  I’m sure that his job isn’t easy, as teenagers in trouble are not an easy population.  However, if I were him, I’d be sweating bullets.  It really appears that extreme negligence is a problem at his facility.

Managed care is one reason why private psychiatric hospitals have gone down the tubes.  In the 80s, psychiatric medications were not as good as they are today.  Nowadays, many people who would have been hospitalized years ago can be treated outpatient.  You have to be pretty sick to wind up in a hospital, for any reason.  Managed care also pays less for fewer days.  But Charter’s woes also came about due to a public relations situation.  In 1999, an unflattering news report was aired regarding Charter’s business practices.  Terrance Johnson had a master’s degree in social work, but he took a job as a mental health technician.  While he was on the job, he wore a tiny camera, which recorded everything going on as he worked at his $8.35 per hour position.  People were paying thousands of dollars a day for “treatment”, but they were being watched over by “big guys”.  Really, being “big” was the number one qualification for the job.  Johnson’s size was more of a prerequisite for being a mental health technician than his MSW was.

I’m not sure if what Terrance Johnson encountered at a Charter hospital is still how these kinds of facilities are run.  I have read a few horror stories.  But it does sound like at least at one former Charter hospital, it’s business as usual.  My heart goes out to Raven Keffer’s family and anyone else who has suffered at one of these places.  And now that I have a VPN, I can read all about it.

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dogs, lessons learned, psychology

What are the odds?

Last night, I read an article about elderly people who suddenly find themselves homeless since the advent of COVID-19. The piece, which appeared in The New York Times, featured the story of a man named Miles Oliver who lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Originally from Chicago, Oliver came to Arizona by way of the Army over thirty years ago, when he was a new recruit assigned to Fort Huachuca. He liked Arizona and decided to stay there once his stint with the Army was finished.

According to The New York Times article, Mr. Oliver had been able to make a life for himself in Arizona by working day labor jobs and delivering pizzas for Papa John’s. But then COVID-19 struck and Oliver was soon out of work. To make matters worse, work had already been slow in February, before things really started to get bleak in terms of the virus. Oliver was soon face with the difficult decision of either paying his rent or paying his car note, $230 for a 2007 Ford Fusion. He decided to pay the car note, since it was a source of shelter and transportation. By the end of April, he was kicked out of his home, forced to grab just a few necessary items– reading glasses, socks and underwear, and Metformin for his blood sugar, before he hit the streets in his car. By late June, his car quit working.

Oliver has an ex wife and two children. His older son is estranged and hasn’t spoken to him in years. His younger son is a student and in no position to help him. He doesn’t speak to his ex wife. He has diabetes and sleep apnea, and although he is a veteran and qualifies for some benefits, his future looks dim.

As I read about Mr. Oliver’s plight, it occurred to me that he’s about Bill’s age. Once again, I was reminded of how quickly and drastically things can change. I’ve been doing what I can to mitigate the risks that someday, I’ll find myself homeless. I looked at Bill and said, “You know what? I think if I were in that situation, I’d be tempted to just check out.” I said this mainly because although I am not necessarily estranged from my family, neither am I particularly close to them. I don’t have children, and although I am well-educated and privileged, I was never able to parlay that into a job that paid me enough to live on. If I couldn’t do it 20 years ago, how can I do it now? And why would I want to? Without Bill, I’m not sure why I’d stick around this hellhole we call Earth, which is swirling with plagues, natural disasters, and selfish, shitty politicians like Trump and Mitch McConnell.

Bill, who is eternally optimistic and has survived some pretty dim odds himself, gave me a pained look. Although he knows I suffer from depression and that makes me look on the dark side of things, I don’t think he’s ever gotten used to that unfailingly pragmatic aspect of my personality. It’s also kind of anti-American to “give up” on life. Bill has never felt the urge to off himself, despite his brush with death when he was a teenager. I, on the other hand, used to feel suicidal somewhat often. I’ve often felt ambivalent and apathetic about life. I was told more than once that I wasn’t wanted by the people who were responsible for creating me. They later came to appreciate me, but those comments left a deep scar that has affected my self-worth. And I just feel like if I were in a situation as an old woman without a home, family, or friends, I wouldn’t want to bother going on. But then I started thinking about it some more and realized that maybe I was wrong to think that way.

I thought about all of the challenges facing Mr. Oliver. He’s an older Black man, with no family able to help him and, it appears, few friends. He’s got health problems, but no money or resources to take care of them. There’s a pandemic raging, and we have a president who doesn’t care about people. And yet he is clearly a survivor. He has reached out for assistance. His story was told in The New York Times. Maybe I got the wrong message.

After I told Bill about why I felt it would be more expedient to “check out” than try to rebuild life as a homeless person, I looked behind me at Noizy. He’s still stuck in the corner of our living room, slowly getting braver by the day. I started to think about how he’d once been a homeless puppy, weaned too early from his mother, and left to die in a country where dogs aren’t appreciated. It’s kind of a miracle that he’s here with us in Germany. What are the odds?

Noizy was brought to his American rescuer, Meg, by a young man in Kosovo who had seen him in the street, screaming for help. He brought the puppy to Meg because he didn’t know where else to take him. Kosovo has a big problem with street dogs, but the culture doesn’t support animal rescue too well. Many people in Kosovo are Muslim and many Muslims consider dogs impure and unclean. Meg didn’t need another puppy to take care of, but she decided to keep Noizy anyway. She watched him grow from tiny puppy to gigantic adult. I’m sure she wondered what his future would hold.

And then, Bill and I came along, looking for a new canine friend. We had just tragically lost a dog we’d tried to adopt, one who was much closer to the type of dog we usually take into our home. It took some time for us to decide we really wanted another dog, and it was definitely not our plan to adopt a big dog– especially one as large as Noizy is. But once I saw Noizy’s face, I was hooked. There was something about his eyes that touched my heart. I have never been sorry when I’ve taken in a dog, and every single one we’ve adopted touched me through a photograph.

I started thinking about all of the people who came together to see that Noizy found a home. He spent 18 months living on a farm in Kosovo, one of many dogs living there, cared for by a farmer who has a soft spot for dogs and was willing to help Meg, who had moved from Kosovo to Germany and couldn’t take her rescues with her. She had paid for the dogs to be taken care of on the farm while she looked afar for potential rescuers. Most of these dogs haven’t lived as pets in a home.

I just happened to have a friend who knew Meg and introduced us. I met this friend in Stuttgart a few years ago, again by chance. We’ve only seen each other in person once, but our mutual friend is very involved in dog rescue herself and has a couple of exotic dogs from far flung countries like Thailand and Afghanistan. She told Meg that one of her dogs would be very lucky to be placed with us. It was like the stars aligned.

I just met Meg in person the other day. She is very impressive. Somehow, she has managed to develop a powerful network of people in Kosovo, Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia who have helped her on her mission to save some street dogs. What are the odds that a tiny puppy like Noizy would end up in Meg’s care? What are the odds that she would be found by a local young man who cared about the puppy’s life enough to seek her out? It was much more likely that the noisy puppy would have languished and died.

Even once we’d decided when to pick up Noizy, there were challenges. First, there was the whole COVID-19 situation, which is causing countries to shut their borders again. Fortunately, that didn’t affect us during our trip, although it as definitely a concern. And then, when Meg was bringing Noizy and two other dogs up to Slovenia to hand off to Bill and me, her car broke down. Another American couple (younger and able to take another day to travel) drove an extra 400 kilometers to help Meg get the dogs to Slovenia. They drove all night, very slowly, to make it happen.

Soon Noizy was in the back of our Volvo, with our other dog, Arran, looking pissy in the back seat. On his first night in our home, Noizy was obsessed with going outside. It’s what he knew. He hugged the door to our yard, taking every opportunity to go out. He bumped his head on the glass, apparently because he’d never seen a glass door before. Within 24 hours, he clearly preferred being indoors rather than outdoors. He’s staked out a part of our living room and won’t venture beyond that area. But every time he sees me, he looks delighted and wags his tail excitedly. He rolls on his back for a belly rub. He’s learned how to drink from a water bowl and eat from a dish. He’s even been pretty good (but not perfect) with peeing and pooping outside. Noizy is clearly game for the challenge of learning how to be a pet.

A few days ago, Bill had an epiphany about Noizy. In 2012, when we were vacationing in Scotland in honor of our tenth wedding anniversary, we got the devastating news that our beagle/basset hound mix, MacGregor, had a spinal tumor. At the time, we lived in North Carolina. Vets had told us before we left for our trip that they thought MacGregor had disk disease. If we had known it was a tumor (which they only discovered after he had a MRI), we probably would have made other choices about our vacation.

The night we found out about the cancer and the vet’s suggestion that we euthanize MacGregor, Bill had a nightmare. He dreamt he was being chased by many dogs. He thought they wanted to hurt him, so he initially threw rocks at them. But then he realized they weren’t trying to attack him at all. They all needed help. One dog in particular was kind of eerie looking. He had gleaming eyes, but he wasn’t menacing.

The next morning, we got off the Hebridean Princess and took a taxi to Edinburgh. As we were passing the lovely town of Stirling, Bill considered his dream and what it meant. He knew it meant we were going to be helping dogs… perhaps even a lot of them. As he thought more about his dream while we rode toward Edinburgh, Bill came to assume that the gleaming eyed dog represented death, which will always be there whenever there’s a living creature involved in a situation. The dream has stuck with him almost eight years later. This past Sunday, as we were driving to Germany with Noizy and Arran, Bill said “You know what? That dog in my dream looked a lot like Noizy.”

Later, Bill told Meg about his dream. Meg, who studies Jungian psychology, offered her take on it. Then she told us about what Noizy meant to her and how he came to be in her care. I hope Meg doesn’t mind that I share this one bit from her explanation… because I have been thinking about it a lot over the past few days. She wrote that to her, Noizy represents hope for the future. He should have died on the street, but he screamed for help (hence his name). A young man, native to a country that doesn’t necessarily appreciate dogs, came to his rescue and gave him to Meg, a woman who rescues dogs.

Why did the young man give Noizy to Meg? Because he had hope that Meg could save the puppy and give him a future. The alternative was to let him die. Meg told us that a lot of the young people of Kosovo don’t have a lot of hope. They are in a country that isn’t recognized everywhere yet. Their country is troubled, and the young people wonder if anyone cares about them.

Why did Meg give Noizy to us? She said it was hard for her. I could tell she was very emotional when we took him. He’s a big, powerful dog, though, and Meg has many dogs who need homes. Meg is also retired and has physical and financial limitations that may preclude taking care of Noizy the way we can. Even though we’re doing fine so far, I wonder what the future holds for us. I’m no spring chicken myself. 😉 But I do have plenty of time, and Bill and I– at least for now– have a secure home and money for food, vet care, and anything else Noizy needs. So we’re going to do our best to make sure that young man’s hope for Noizy will not be unfulfilled.

And maybe I can learn a lesson from Noizy, too. Against all odds, he’s up here in Germany, about to live his best life… to the best of our ability to give it to him. We’re an unlikely match. Bill and I have always had beagle mixes, after all… and we’re renters with a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. But I think I can teach Noizy a thing or two, and he can teach me even more than that. At the very least, he can teach me that maybe “checking out” isn’t the best thing to do when one is suddenly homeless or facing another major adversity.

I hope Miles Oliver finds what he needs to start over and live his best life with whatever time he has left. And I thank him for his story, which affected me more than I realized when I read it last night.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology

“I don’t have time”…

Yesterday, I wrote about how Bill discovered that his daughter was medically neglected when she was growing up. The problems that younger daughter had weren’t life threatening; they simply caused her great discomfort and pain. Ex figured her kid would live, so she didn’t have to take her to a doctor or pay for devices that would make her feel or function better. She didn’t have time for it, nor did she want to go to the trouble or spend the money. And if she did spend the time or the money, she would never let anyone forget it, as if seeing to her children’s needs was a favor, rather than a responsibility.

It occurs to me that I’ve often heard that same excuse from other narcissistic types. Whenever someone makes a request of them, particularly when it has to do with respecting personal boundaries or spending money, their excuse for not honoring the request is often “I don’t have time.” But they have no issues with taking YOUR time or making requests or demands of your money or resources.

When I was in the Peace Corps, I had several different landladies. The first two were basically kind and respectful enough. I left the first place because it involved living with a host family, a young woman and her little brother, and I wanted my own space and more privacy. I didn’t want to have to worry about someone going through my stuff when I wasn’t home (which happened both times I lived with host families). I preferred quiet in the evenings and she would have friends over until all hours. I also wanted to feel comfortable in my own home rather than like a guest. So, after two months living there, I moved into my own apartment. It was a lot better for me.

The second landlady I had was a very nice lady whose brother had moved to Ukraine and left her to take care of his apartment. She was also the Peace Corps doctor. I was reasonably happy there, but had to move after a year because her brother had decided to sell the place. No one told me he was selling it, so I was very confused when someone rang the doorbell wanting to know if I was “selling” the apartment. I started getting other random people showing up wanting a tour. Later, my landlady explained what was going on and I decided to move, rather than deal with people constantly coming over to see the apartment.

Then, there was my third landlady, who had an apartment and moved to Hungary to study. When I agreed to rent her place, I didn’t know her very well, although she too had worked for the Peace Corps. She left her father in charge of the apartment. Every month, he would show up at the apartment to collect the rent. I was paying twice as much rent for that apartment than I was for the previous one. By American standards, it was a very cheap place to live, but by Armenian standards, it was very expensive and quite overpriced. In fact, the rent was double what I paid for the other place, smaller, and in a less desirable location, although it had nicer furniture (a real bed instead of a fold out couch). I worked at a non-governmental organization to help cover the rent. Technically, we weren’t supposed to be paid for extra work, but it was a common practice, especially for those of us who lived in Yerevan. Volunteers are no longer posted there.

In my last three months in that apartment, which I lived in for about ten months, the landlady came back to Armenia from Hungary and started paying visits, even if I wasn’t home. She would let herself into the apartment when I wasn’t there and let her son eat my food. Not only would he eat things from my fridge, but he’d leave the dirty dishes for me to find. One night, I came home from having gone out to see a movie and this lady and her father were waiting in the apartment for me. They had let themselves in while I wasn’t there. I was completely unprepared for the ambush, and not really in a state to be talking to them at that hour. It was about 10:00 on a Friday night and I’d had a couple of beers. Dad was smoking a cigarette when I opened the door to the place I had considered my home for about nine months.

Former Armenian landlady accused me of not paying rent one month. She said her father had accused me of not paying. I was outraged, of course, because he showed up every month on the first day, ready to collect the money. And of course he was paid. I could not even fathom how she thought I could live in a place where I wasn’t paying rent. There was a record of me getting the money from the NGO where I worked. I asked the ex landlady to check the records. Her response? “I don’t have time to do that. How do I know you didn’t just spend the money?”

I could have asked the same thing about her father, who did very promptly collect the rent without fail and very faithfully got paid. I kept a daily journal when I was in the Peace Corps and I actually noted the days when he came, not because I didn’t trust him, but because I habitually journal about mundane things like that. I still do that today, as you can see.

As for my Armenian landlady, I was beyond offended by her gall and, still being a young, inexperienced renter in a foreign country, I couldn’t believe her sense of entitlement and unfairness toward me. She had worked for the Peace Corps and knew full well what the organization is about, yet she still felt fine about trying to rip me off.

She had plenty of time to let herself into my home and wait for me, but no time to do a simple check like finding out if she’d been paid. She had no problem accusing me of stiffing her for a month’s rent, and she probably figured that because I was a “rich” American paying what we’d consider “cheap” rent, I would just pay her to get her off my case. I think she also mistook my tendency to get emotional as a sign of weakness. Well… she could not have been more wrong about that. I went on the fucking warpath, as I tend to do when people push me past a certain red line. She quickly found out that she had made a major miscalculation of my potential reaction to her dishonest ploy and had completely misjudged and underestimated me.

Armenian landlady and her father finally left the apartment when I had a panic attack in front of them. At the time, I had severe issues with anxiety and depression and I would sometimes hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably. I was so completely shocked and horrified by her aggressive and completely unwarranted accusations that I had a big meltdown. They didn’t know what to do, so they left. Fortunately, panic attacks are no longer a problem for me– now, I just get super pissed off and resolved to set things right.

I eventually recovered my senses, called one of the Peace Corps administrators, and explained what happened. We arranged for someone Armenian from the office to be there when I handed over the keys to the apartment, to make sure that I didn’t get harassed as I was trying to leave the country. And no, Armenian landlady did not manage to shake me down for another month’s rent, but I left Armenia with an angry and depressed mindset. I was flabbergasted by her nerve and left with a bitter taste in my mouth that I had spent over two years of my life trying to do something good and was accused of theft for my troubles.

Many years hence, I had a landlady who “didn’t have time” to send a four word email or text to let me know when she was coming over so I could be prepared for company. Bear in mind that in most developed countries, landlords aren’t supposed to simply drop by without notice. They’re usually required to give 24 hours notice before they show up. Bill and I were initially pretty laid back about her habit of dropping in– or really, I was, because I was mostly the one who dealt with her. But she’d caught me undressed, sick, busy, or asleep one too many times and I was fed up with the intrusions, among other things.

Bill politely and reasonably asked her to let us know before she came over (so I could be awake, properly dressed, and we could make sure there weren’t any doggy landmines in the backyard). We weren’t even asking for 24 hours notice, but she was offended that we had the nerve to ask her for ANY notice to come to HER house (which was also OUR HOME). She wrote back that she “didn’t have time” to send us notice– as few as just four words “I’m coming over now”– so I could be ready to receive her. She actually refused to do it, because she “didn’t have time”. We still have the email with her refusal to comply with that simple request, along with all of the others she sent that indicate her huge sense of entitlement and propensity toward double standards when it comes to her renters.

This is what gets me about these types of people– folks who are entitled, high-conflict oriented, and narcissistic. If the shoe was on the other foot, they would be absolutely up in arms if someone told them they “didn’t have time” for them or to honor a simple request. Narcissistic types will go off about that– how dare you NOT bend to my will?! How dare you NOT have time to do my bidding?! I am ENTITLED. You are not.

When Bill was first married to Ex (when she only had her son from her first marriage), he asked her to look for a job because they were struggling to pay their bills. Ex got very offended and said she was going to mark all of the stuff she’d brought to the home as hers. She was so upset and put upon that Bill would ask her to look for work, even though it would benefit everyone if they could more easily pay their bills. She “didn’t have time” to work. Ex did later work when more children came along, although her work history has been a bit checkered.

If I had told any of my former landladies that I “didn’t have time” to go pick up the rent money for them, they would have been extremely upset with me. If I had told my Armenian landlady that she couldn’t just let herself into the apartment whenever she felt like it, she would have been furious with me. She might even cite that she “didn’t have time” to tell me she was coming over and that she was entitled to the convenience of being able to drop in whenever it suited her, regardless of my plans. I wasn’t worthy of the consideration. I will grant that it would have been hard for the Armenian landlady to let me know she was coming over in 1997. At the time, cell phones weren’t widely available and landlines were notoriously unreliable. I could call the United States more easily than I could call across the street. But she still let her kid eat my pudding and leave the dirty dishes for me to clean up and she was still waiting for me to come home one night inside the apartment. She was entitled– it was HER apartment before it was MY home, and I was paying her a lot for the privilege.

Ditto to the fact that an awning that one of my ex landladies neglected to have fixed by a real repairperson could have seriously hurt or even killed me when it fell. She had no regard for the fact that my life could have been in danger because she “didn’t have the time or money” to call a real repairperson instead of getting her husband to do a free patch job. Instead, she felt “entitled” to force us to buy her a brand new awning, even after taking an insurance settlement. She failed to realize her own neglect and disregard for our safety and was focused solely on money she felt she was owed.

However, when we objected to her coming over to oversee the chimney sweep and check the smoke alarms, she was quick to lecture us about our “safety”. We weren’t objecting to the chimney sweep’s visit or the safety checks. We were objecting to her need to come over to our home and harass us. There was no reason for her to be in attendance for the chimney sweep’s visit. She just wanted to exert control. She had no time to send a quick text or an email to tell us when she was going to do yard work or clean the gutters, but she had plenty of time to hang around the house when the chimney sweep visited. She also had no problem demanding that I make coffee for repairpeople, even though she was overseeing them and had set up the appointments. Incidentally, the coffee always went untouched, so that was like money down the drain. OUR money… not hers. Hmm…

Likewise, she had no issues detailing the smallest of complaints about our “shortcomings” as tenants– issues that no one else has ever had with us. But she didn’t feel the need to hold herself to the same standards when it came to properly accounting for the condition of the house when we moved in and out, how she was billing us, or adhering to basic laws designed to protect tenants and their privacy. She clearly expected that we would simply let her get away with these oversights because it’s much easier and less expensive to give in to the fuckery than hold her accountable. WE were expected to be perfect, but she “didn’t have time for that”, nor were we worthy of that standard.

I’ve gotten to the point at which when I hear someone telling me that they “don’t have time” for something that is a simple and easily fulfilled request, or they “don’t have time” to respect a basic boundary, or they “don’t have time” to take care of something that involves someone else’s comfort, health, or safety, particularly when that person is someone who is especially vulnerable in some way (a child, someone who is sick or disabled, or an elderly person), I realize that the person is going to be a major league asshole and abuse their power over others. I can pretty much count on it.

Generally speaking, it’s best to just walk away from these types of people, although most of them dearly need to be taught a lesson by a visit from the karma bus. I seem to drive the karma bus fairly often… it seems to be my lot in life. It doesn’t make me very popular with these types of people… That’s too bad for them, isn’t it?

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Ex, narcissists, psychology

Sometimes you simply have to call bullshit…

This morning, I read an article about Olympic swimmer, 36 year old Ryan Lochte. He’s currently estranged from his mother Ileana Lochte and, in an interview with Graham Bensinger, Lochte explained that in 2011, when his mother had divorced his father, Steven Lochte, everyone had been on her side. But then when Ryan told his mother she was going to be a grandmother, she apparently said some very hurtful things and refused to apologize for them. And now, Ryan and his mother have been estranged for a few years. He hasn’t spoken to her. By contrast, he and his father and stepmother are now on very good terms.

I’ve often reflected on how perspectives change as we grow older. When I was a child, things were a lot simpler. Or, at least they seemed that way. I saw things in more black and white terms. All of my friends and relatives were “good”. All of the kids in school who bullied me were “bad”. But then, as I got older, I started to see everyone in a different light. At some point, people I thought were all good developed some very noticeable character defects. Or really, I just noticed them for the first time. By contrast, people I had thought were all bad all of a sudden seemed more human and decent to me. This expanded vision is ultimately a good and necessary thing, but it’s also kind of heartbreaking. Especially when I have good memories of some of these folks, but I know that we’ll probably never speak again.

I think this phenomenon happens to most people who are at least somewhat psychologically healthy. But it’s disconcerting and sometimes very sad when the whole truth comes out about someone we love, or even just like. I think that’s what might be happening with my husband’s children right now.

Last night, Bill talked with his younger daughter, who is struggling with some stuff. She and her husband are in their mid 20s, trying to survive in this pandemic craziness and pay their bills. They have two small children, and as Mormons, are very much involved with their family. Fortunately, younger daughter inherited a lot of Bill’s character and she’s committed to being a good mom.

All of the years, when younger daughter was growing up, Ex’s story was that she was all about taking care of her family. In fact, some years ago, I remember reading a bullshit news story about Ex that appeared in a local newspaper. She claimed that she’d arrived in Arizona in a used van with just $3000 and a dream. She didn’t mention that she was getting child support faithfully every month and that my husband could see to it that the children had medical care. Nope– her narrative was that she was a supermom, doing it ALL alone and handling everything brilliantly. It was such a load of shit!

Bill was faithfully paying her $2550 a month in child support, more than what a general officer would have paid for three children at that time. One of the children he was supporting wasn’t even legally his child. Because Bill was in the military, his children were entitled to military ID cards. They also had access to full medical benefits and free care at military treatment facilities. And yet, Ex chose not to avail herself of these valuable benefits for her children. In fact, she evidently acted as if she didn’t care when younger daughter needed medical attention.

Younger daughter had some physical problems that needed care. Her mother made a huge deal out of the inconvenience and expense of seeking care and implied that she couldn’t afford it. Consequently, those issues went neglected, and now younger daughter is paying a price that may cost her for the rest of her life.

Some people might read this and wonder where Bill was. Well… he tried to stay in touch with Ex and asked her repeatedly about the children. Once she realized that he was going to persist in being involved with the children, she went on a very effective alienation campaign. He really tried to be a good father as best as he was able. But Ex had so effectively alienated Bill’s daughters and ex stepson that no one would speak to him. She moved them to a different state and neglected to inform Bill. We found out about the move through Internet sleuthing. In any case, when these issues were occurring, younger daughter was almost an adult anyway, and wouldn’t speak to Bill. But her mother was freaking out over having to pay several hundred dollars for special equipment that would have helped her daughter function better. She implied that she wasn’t getting any help from Bill, which was patently untrue.

Later, when younger daughter was offered a job in Utah, Ex did her best to get her to stay home. She offered her all kinds of stuff– everything from music lessons that she’d always wanted to more money that what younger daughter would make in Utah. Fortunately, younger daughter was smart enough to see through the bullshit and valued her freedom from the craziness more than a few extra bucks (which would not have materialized, anyway). Then, when younger daughter made her decision, Ex did what she always does… sent a long, scathing, insulting letter full of shaming, empty promises, pleading, and berating. Then, in a true act of apparent desperation to maintain control, she allegedly attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. And when that didn’t work, she brutally cut off her daughter (temporarily, of course– in retrospect, permanently cutting her off might have been the kindest thing to do).

Of course, Ex never totally lets anyone go. The beautiful thing about COVID-19, though, is that it makes it much harder for her to travel. Ex, who once told Bill she would never put the children on a plane to see us in Virginia (because of terrorism), would not hesitate to drive or fly thousands of miles and drop in on people unawares. If she ever got a sign that younger daughter was weakening in her resolve, she would absolutely take the opportunity to insert herself and poison her daughter’s relationships or even alienate her own kids from her. That’s how toxic people operate, and I have been watching Ex do it from afar for many years now.

For many years, I was very angry with my husband’s daughters. I thought they had treated Bill unfairly and were not very bright for rejecting him. Now that we’re hearing the other side, I can see why they did what they did. They were told a lot of lies and raised by a master manipulator who only thinks of herself and her own needs. This morning, Bill said that he used to think that his Ex did these things to be mean and hurtful to him. But now, after comparing notes with his daughter, he realizes that she simply doesn’t care, and that’s even worse than her trying to be hurtful. Because Bill DID care and would have helped them if he’d only known. Those girls didn’t have to suffer as much as they did when they were growing up.

It’s amazing how perspectives change as we age. Five years ago, I never believed I would be writing this about Bill’s daughter. Five years ago, she wouldn’t speak to or about Bill. Now, I realize that she must have been scared. Her mother had built up this image that Bill is an awful man. She told outrageous lies about him and me… things like he abandoned the family to have an affair with me (even though she had moved her boyfriend– now husband #3– into the house while she was still married to Bill) or that the Army was more important than his family (the Army provided excellent pay and benefits he couldn’t get working in a factory– much of which he was sending to Ex as child support).

One of the nice things I have discovered since moving my blog from Blogger is that I get fewer people reading… and leaving me shitty comments because they assume I’ve either made up this story or I’m just a bitter second wife. It’s true that I’m bitter about a lot of things. I despise Bill’s ex wife. That is not a secret. I certainly wouldn’t like her for the way she treated Bill and his kids and other people, but there’s another reason I despise her. It’s because she’s a cruel person. She was very cruel to Bill when they were married. When I say “very cruel”, I mean criminally so… as in, I think she should go to prison for what she did. If she were a man, there would be no question, as long as the crime was reported. Suffice to say, my husband was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage.

More than once, random people have told me that I have no right to write about these things. They tell me how I “come off” to others and try to silence me from speaking the truth. It’s happened to me repeatedly throughout my life, not just in terms of my husband’s ex wife, but in other situations, too. I’m looking at certain people who have been “interested” in my writing and not wanted me to write about my experiences because they are friends with the other person or because they themselves don’t want to be cast in a bad light. You know what? If you’re doing dirty, dishonest things, you totally deserve to deal with the repercussions of being outed, and I’m done trying to be “positive”, “fair”, and “forgiving” toward people who don’t warrant the consideration. My days of putting up with that shit are over, and it’s a very liberating way to be. Like everyone else, I deserve to be heard and validated, too, even if no one wants to listen to what I have to say (or write). This doesn’t mean, though, that I agree with mobbing people or deliberately trying to ruin their lives. I just think they should have to deal with the natural and inevitable consequences of their bad behavior.

My husband’s daughter, to her credit, has figured this all out a lot younger than her dad and I have. She realizes that some people are simply full of shit and she doesn’t have to waste her time on them. She knows that her mother is full of shit and doesn’t care about her. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to buy inserts for younger daughter’s shoes so she wasn’t in so much pain. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to have her daughter’s spine checked by a doctor and braced so that she didn’t suffer from scoliosis that caused her back problems. She couldn’t be bothered to get in touch with Bill so that those kids could get healthcare. The one time she did contact Bill about their healthcare needs, she asked him to send HER money instead of paying the provider directly. Why? Because that way, she could ask for as much as she wanted and it would go into her pocket… hell, we don’t even know if there ever was a bill that needed to be paid because she wouldn’t send it. Instead, she just tried to demand the money.

The other day, I watched an excellent video by YouTube psychologist, Dr. Ramani, who specializes in talking about narcissists. The video was about “toxic positivity”, which is a real problem in our society today. We have many people who think we always need to be “positive” and “understanding” at all costs. These toxic positivity folks are perfect “flying monkeys” for narcissists, because they always harp on giving people the benefit of the doubt, even when it’s clear that they don’t deserve it.

Well worth watching, if you have the time and inclination.

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of that shit from people… people who have tried to gaslight me into doubting my own instincts and observations in favor of their well spun bullshit. You know what? Letting this kind of thing go– just giving people a break all the time– always leads to being screwed. If you’re a chronically nice and understanding person, you’re are just begging to be screwed over by this type of person. They thrive on people who are always “nice” and “fair” to them. Anyone who has a well-developed sense of shame and a tendency to be forgiving is at risk of being exploited by people like Ex. A little bit of forgiveness is a good thing; don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, you simply have to call bullshit. And bravo to younger daughter for being smart enough and BRAVE enough to do just that. Her dad and I are now working on the same thing.

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