blog news, LDS, mental health, obits, psychology

For some people, Mother’s Day is a “day of infamy”…

Happy Mother’s Day, everybody. I know not everyone loves this holiday, but if you do celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope it’s a nice one for you. I don’t mind Mother’s Day much anymore. My mom and I get along pretty well, and I’ve come to terms that I’m a “mom” to dogs. I don’t really think of my dogs as my kids, although they are kind of my babies. At least I don’t have to send them to college. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m kidding about the last part. I think I would have enjoyed sending an adult child to college, even though it costs so much. On the other hand, it’s nice to be debt free… and not having to pay for student loans anymore.

Younger daughter sent us a couple of videos. In one, she talked about how so many people her age are forgoing motherhood. It’s very obvious that she loves being a mom, and she’s very good at the job. I admire her patience and dedication to being there for her children. It’s more than she got from her own mom.

Something surreal happened the other day. I was sitting here looking through old blog posts and I found one in which I mentioned Heather B. Armstrong (nee Hamilton), author of the very popular blog Dooce, and a couple of books. I was never a regular reader of Dooce myself, but I knew about Heather because she was an ex Mormon and had grown up in Bartlett, Tennessee (near Memphis), which is where Bill’s dad lived for years before he passed. I think it might have even been May 9th when I looked at that post, not realizing that I would be getting shocking news about her that very day.

On May 9th, it was announced that 47 year old Heather Armstrong had died by her own hand. She reportedly suffered from depression and alcoholism, which was likely made worse by the toxicity of the Internet. Her writing had enchanted and delighted millions of people. She was even dubbed “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers”, because she was a Mommy Blogger before it was “cool”. At a time when blogs were mostly for people to trade among friends and family members, Heather Armstrong made it a place where anyone could have a voice. Dooce.com took off, and soon, scores of people were reading Armstrong’s thoughts on living, loving, marriage, and motherhood.

But Dooce.com had also excited mean spirited people who harassed her on a site called GOMI (Get Off My Internets), an “anti-fan” blog launched in 2008 by New York based blogger, Alice Wright. I had never heard of GOMI before I read about Heather Armstrong’s suicide, but apparently, a very special class of haters hang out there. They make a habit of reading blogs and trashing the writers.

Aside from garden variety clinical depression and alcoholism, Armstrong also had very severe postpartum depression after she had her older daughter in 2003. It was so bad that she needed to be hospitalized. In 2009, Armstrong published a very well-received book called It Sucked and then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown and a Much Needed Margarita. In spite of her experiences with postpartum depression, Armstrong had another daughter in 2010. Then she divorced her ex husband, Jon Armstrong. She was in another relationship with Pete Ashdown, a two-time Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Utah, at the time of her death.

Heather Armstrong had reportedly quit drinking for awhile before her death, but then relapsed into alcoholism. She continued to write, although her posts– which had been almost daily for years– became a lot less frequent. Some readers were unnerved by the content of her most recent posts, which revealed a downward spiral.

I think a lot of people were shocked and saddened by Armstrong’s suicide. Even though I wasn’t one of her fans, I had heard of Dooce, and realized its success was what a lot of bloggers strive for. Many aspiring writers looked up to Heather Armstrong as a role model, but I think other people just thought of her as a dependable friend. And now she’s gone, and people are left wondering what happened.

I read a few news articles about Heather Armstrong’s death. I was saddened to read that so many comments people left were either clueless or kind of mean. Heather Armstrong will never read those comments, but she was a mom, and her kids can read. Now, it’s Mother’s Day, and their mom is gone forever. For them, Mother’s Day may turn into a “day of infamy”. That’s a day in which a person remembers something awful every year.

Although Armstrong killed herself, I know that her action was caused by legitimate mental illnesses. Many people will say she was selfish to commit suicide, but those people might not understand that suicidal people are often not in their right minds. I write “often not” because sometimes people commit suicide for reasons other than depression. Clearly, in Armstrong’s case, her decision came as a result of deep, unrelenting psychological pain that wasn’t eased by medical treatment. Her death, while brought about by her own hand, was every bit as the result of an illness as a death due to a stroke, cancer, or heart disease is. It’s not like she didn’t try to get well, either. Heather’s depression was severe enough that she even underwent an experimental treatment involving being put into chemically induced comas for fifteen minute sessions. The treatment was supposed to mimic brain death, to see if it might cure extreme depression.

I have suffered from depression myself, and I know how it made me feel. There were times when I was tempted by suicide. But by the grace of God, I managed to resist those impulses. I doubt that my issues were ever as deep as Heather’s were… and although sometimes I get rude comments on my blog, I have never been harassed like she was. I don’t go looking for comments about me, or my blog, so if anyone is talking trash about me, I’m oblivious. But I suspect my blog is too boring for people on GOMI.

I was also never Mormon… and while I know that a lot of people find joy in Mormonism, I also know that a lot of people suffer despair because of it. Armstrong, who had once been a devout church member, left the religion, and reportedly suffered backlash from her family and friends. She poured her thoughts and feelings into her writing, and wound up being fired from her job in Los Angeles. At the time, it was probably awful for her… but then the blog took off, and she was soon earning millions from ad revenue, book sales, and product endorsements.

As a blogger myself, I wonder if maybe Dooce’s success was a source of terrible stress for Armstrong. I know that writing, for me, is kind of therapeutic. But when you become popular, you have to be much more careful about what you write. And when you make money from sponsors, you have to be even more careful, because businesses don’t want to be aligned with controversies or bad press. So then, that “therapy” kind of goes by the wayside, because as a writer, you can no longer be so free with what you express. I would imagine it also becomes harder to stay authentic and interesting.

My own blog used to be more popular. When I was writing it on Blogger and lived in Stuttgart, I shared it a lot more, and I had more readers. I eventually realized that I didn’t really want to be super popular, especially in a military community. Even years since I moved the blog to WordPress and kind of started over, I sometimes run into people who have never even read it, but had a negative opinion of it and me, just because of the name. I try to remember, though, that everyone who becomes popular has to deal with negative opinions and even haters. The most talented, likeable, and famous people in the world have haters.

Heather Armstrong obviously had mental health issues. Writing was a comfort for her… until it was used as a weapon. And now she has two daughters who no longer have their mother on Mother’s Day. I don’t blame Heather for what happened, because I know that the horrors of depression and alcoholism are real. But I do feel for her daughters, who have lost their mom forever. So, my thoughts are with them today, as I am reminded that for some people, Mother’s Day is difficult, at best. And for some, it really is a “day of infamy”.

Wherever Heather B. Armstrong is today, I hope she’s finally at peace. And I wish the most peace and comfort to her survivors, especially her daughters.

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communication, family, lessons learned, narcissists, psychology

My mom confirms something important to me…

The featured photo is a picture of Mom and me in Sousse, Tunisia, over the New Year’s holiday in 1978. I was five years old. We lived in England at the time, so it wasn’t a super long journey.

Last week, I tried to call my mom a couple of times. I had forgotten that she was going to be having knee surgery. She had told me about it in March, I think, and it slipped my mind. My mom lives alone in a senior apartment community in Hampton, Virginia. The community was formed out of what was once a grand hotel. It overlooks the Chesapeake Bay. She has a wonderful view from her two bedroom apartment, where she’s lived since 2009. My dad shared the apartment with her, until he died on July 9, 2014.

My mom is going to be 85 years old this year. She’s still quite independent. Her mind is sharp. She still drives, though not as far as she used to. She doesn’t go out much, though, so I was a little worried when I called her three times and didn’t get an answer. Our neighbor’s mom is my mom’s age, and she’s been having some problems lately. She broke her leg, and a few weeks ago, she picked up the wrong keys to her house and got confused. Not being able to reach my mom caused me to to worry a little. I hoped she wasnโ€™t suffering with the same things our neighborโ€™s mom (who is also a neighbor) does.

I sent one of my three sisters a private message on Facebook, asking her if she knew if Mom was okay. She reminded me about the surgery, but then contacted another sister– the eldest of the four of us– to confirm. Oldest sister said Mom was doing fine. The sister I contacted also called Mom’s apartment community to check on her, and they confirmed that Mom was okay. So that was that.

This sister and my mom have always had a lot of interpersonal issues. I don’t know what they stem from, but they’ve had difficulties for as long as I can remember. It’s too bad, too, because both my mom and my sister have things in common. They are both extraordinarily artistic. My mom can do almost anything with needles and thread. For years, she owned her own business, in which she sold cross-stitch, knitting, needlepoint, and other supplies. She taught many people how to do these needlecrafts (although I’m not among them). My mom, even in her 80s, has made some extremely beautiful things by her own hand. When I was little, she used to make clothes for me. She also knitted sweaters, hats, socks, and scarves.

My mom and one of her many incredible creations… She is a very gifted artist.

My sister, likewise, is very talented with needles and threads. She sews and does needle crafts, like our mom does. She’s also a legitimately gifted artist in the way most people think of artists. She paints, draws, and creates true works of art through many different mediums. In addition, she’s a skilled writer, having earned a master’s degree in journalism, and she has excellent taste in music. My sister introduced me to some of my favorite artists, including Kate Bush.

Really, though, my sister is probably best known as an artist. I’ve been to a lot of art museums, and I can tell you that I would expect to see something my sister did hanging in an art museum. Below are a few examples of her work:

You’d think my mom and my sister would get along famously. They have some things in common. But they don’t really get along. My sister seemed to mesh better with our dad (most of the time). I, on the other hand, have always gotten along with our mom. My dad and I fought a lot.

Back in July 2007, while Bill was in Iraq doing his “patriotic chore”, I attended my paternal grandmother’s funeral. Granny was almost 101 years old when she passed. She was much beloved by everyone in her community. I had to bring my dogs with me, because it wasn’t possible to board them. Consequently, when I stayed at the Natural Bridge Hotel (for the last time, it turned out), I got a room in the “cabins”, which were motel rooms on a hillside. My uncle ran the Natural Bridge Hotel for years, and I’ve stayed there many times. The last time I stayed, it was pretty uncomfortable. I think they’ve renovated since 2007, but I haven’t been back… in part, because it was uncomfortable, and in part, because of something my sister said to me that brings back traumatic memories.

After Granny’s funeral, my sister and I were talking. She was also staying in a “cabin”. For some reason, she chose that time to tell me that she’d always believed I wasn’t my dad’s daughter.

Keep in mind, we had just buried our grandmother, who was my father’s mother. If I wasn’t his daughter, that would have meant that Granny wasn’t my actual grandmother. She was pretty much the only grandparent I’d ever known, since my other grandparents died when I was very young. I do remember my mom’s father, but he had severe dementia when I was conscious of meeting him, and he didn’t really know who any of us were. I also met my paternal grandfather’s mother– my great grandma– but she was also very elderly and died when I was about nine years old. I didn’t have much of a relationship with her. So, as you might realize, Granny was very important to me– more so than she would have been in any case.

When my sister made that declaration to me, I will admit there was a part of me that wondered if what she was saying could have been true. My dad and I fought a lot. I don’t look much like him. Instead, I really favor my mom’s side of the family. But I only wondered about it for a moment…

My sister was telling me about how she formed this idea that maybe I was a “bastard” child. She said our mom was friendly with a neighbor in Hampton, Virginia, where I was born. She said he had blond hair and blue eyes, like mine. My dad had black hair and brown eyes.

I decided to gently challenge my sister. I say “gently”, because I didn’t want to fight with her, especially at Granny’s funeral. I asked her how it was possible that our mom could have had an affair. At the time, our dad was away on Air Force missions a lot. They had three children– my sisters are 13, 11, and 8 years older than I am. How would our mom have the time for adultery?

Also, our mom is painfully honest. I mean, she’s honest to a fault. I just couldn’t see her cheating on our dad. She isn’t the most demonstrative person, although she’s definitely friendlier and more demonstrative now, than she was when our dad was alive. There are a lot of things a person might say about my mom’s rather laid back mothering skills. The truth is, she was kind of neglectful to me– and she’d probably be among the first to admit it. I think she would have been better at mothering had she not been married to an alcoholic during the Vietnam War era, and had she not had four kids. But she has a strong moral compass and a very deep sense of loyalty and duty. She took excellent care of my dad until the bitter end of his life. I know she truly loved him, too, even when he wasn’t very lovable.

Finally, I suggested asking our mom point blank about it. My sister very quickly backpedaled, and said she had a wild imagination. It was clear she didn’t like that idea. Uh huh…

Still, for a long time, I wondered if there was any truth to my sister’s theory, because it was true that my dad and I had a rather contentious relationship. I didn’t know the people who were our neighbors in Hampton. I was a baby, and we left Hampton when I was about six months old, and moved to Dayton, Ohio, where my dad took a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I only have the barest memories of Ohio. It’s probably a blessing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Dad and I didn’t share very much in terms of physical similarities. Now that I’m older, I think bone structure in my face looks like his, somewhat. Actually, I think I look a little like this particular sister, in terms of facial bone structure. She looks more like our dad, though, while I am very obviously my mom’s daughter.

Years later, I submitted my DNA to both 23&Me and Ancestry.com. I saw that a number of my DNA matches came from my dad’s side of the family. Obviously, I am his daughter.

Which brings me to last night’s chat with my mother. We’d been talking for about an hour and were about to ring off. Mom said the surgery and the drugs she was taking were causing her to need the toilet more frequently than usual. Before we finished our conversation, I asked her if she’d watched the coronation of King Charles III. Mom loves watching British ceremonies. She said she had, and that led to another rabbit hole of discussion.

The topic turned to Prince Harry and Meghan, and she brought up their children, Archie and Lilibet. I said that some people were speculating that perhaps the kids weren’t actually conceived between them (not that I believe that myself– it’s not really my business). I added that since everybody is getting their DNA tested these days, it would be hard to lie about something like that.

My mom said, “Well I want you to know that your dad and I are your parents.”

I thought that was kind of a weird thing to say, and before I knew it, I said “Well, thank you for that. There was some doubt at one point. But then I got my DNA tested.”

Naturally, Mom wanted to know what I meant. So I told her about that toxic conversation I’d had with my sister back in 2007… right after Granny’s funeral. I didn’t mention her name… but Mom quickly guessed who had said that to me. It turns out my sister had directly accused our mom of having had an affair. Mom thought maybe she was talking about the young Black male nurse who had been helping to take care of Dad in his last years. At the time, the nurse was an 18 year old nurse’s aid, and our mom was in her 70s. Dad had accused them of having an affair; he had severe dementia at the time. The idea of Mom having an affair with a teenager was ridiculous and laughable, and she did laugh about it. But no… my sister said Mom would have had an affair with a white person.

For sixteen years, I never mentioned to my mom that conversation my sister and I had. I hadn’t meant to mention it last night. To my mom’s credit, she was pretty cool about it and even apologized to me that my sister had said that. It was pretty hurtful.

And maybe I shouldn’t write about this here… Some people would find it inappropriate and too personal. On the other hand, abusers thrive on secrecy. They say and do mean things, counting on their victims remaining silent. In spite of what some people might think, I’ve been silent about a lot of things. It’s not really my nature to be silent, either. One of the gifts I inherited from my mom were, after all, the gifts of music and communication. Actually, I inherited both of those from my dad, too… Music and writing are a couple of a few things I got from him, even if I don’t resemble him physically.

I’m not angry with my sister. I don’t know why she has these issues with our mother. Some of the things she says seem rather fictitious to me… and in fact, she often reminds me of other people in my life with whom I’ve had to do battle. Perhaps dealing with her is one reason why I am so “saturated” when it comes to narcissistic types, like former landlady and Ex. My sister, by the way, thinks she’s an empath. Personally, I don’t really see it. Bill is an empath. I am not, and neither are any of my sisters.

I’m not sorry Mom and I had that talk. Thanks to DNA tests, I already knew that my sister’s conspiracy theory was utter bullshit. I never really believed her theory, even before I had my DNA tested. However, it was good to hear it from my mom, who even told me about the time I was conceived. Apparently, it happened after my dad had taken a “round the world” trip in the fall of 1971, escorting generals to different embassies. Mom said they used to joke that they were going to name me “Ethiopia”. She said she’d told me about that once, and I thought it was “terrible”. I swear, though, I don’t remember the story. She also said the person my sister thought she’d been messing around with was just a neighbor who, along with his wife, had kids the same age. They were just neighborhood friends. In fact, the wife of the couple recently sent Mom a letter. She’d tracked her down in Hampton.

We ended our conversation on a really lovely note. Mom said she loved me, and reminded me that I’d been a good kid who never got into trouble. I guess buying me a horse worked… (and my sister tried to take credit for that decision, too). I wished Mom a happy Mother’s Day, and said I’d call her before we go on vacation next month. It’s a gift to me that she and I can be friends now. She might be one of the few people in my family with whom I would probably choose to be friends, even if we weren’t related.

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bad TV, celebrities, mental health, narcissists, psychology, Reality TV

“If there is a dark side lurking within you, please bring it forth…” and other weird concepts on ANTM…

Yea! It’s Wednesday! Two more days to go before our home “pack” is complete again, and Bill comes home. There was a time in my life when I loved having the house to myself. That was when I was a teenager, which was many years ago. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I didn’t mind living alone when I was a young woman, either, because apparently I’m not the most likable person, or the greatest roommate. Scratch that. I am a pretty good roommate, but only to the right person. I’m such an oddly shaped puzzle piece that there aren’t that many “good fits” for me in the world.

Against all odds, Bill and I happen to get along beautifully. We genuinely dislike being apart when he has to travel. It’s very boring for both of us. He spends all his time working or sleeping, and I spend mine writing, reading, and watching trash TV. Then he wants to have a chat when I’m knee deep in the trash. Actually, this past week, poor Bill has been working nights, which means he gets even less sleep than usual. We haven’t had too much opportunity to chat. Most of our communication has been through very short emails of little substance. So, we’re both really looking forward to Friday, when he comes home from his latest adventure.

I mentioned yesterday, that reading Good Girls by Hadley Freeman had inspired me to watch old episodes of America’s Next Top Model. I was pretty hooked on that show when it was popular, although I didn’t watch it until Cycle 7, when I happened to channel surf past it one night. I don’t like Tyra Banks very much, even if I can easily see why she’s a famous model. Maybe she’s different offscreen, but I find her onscreen persona very off putting and narcissistic. There were times on ANTM when she acted like a complete twat (in the British sense of the word).

However, I did like a couple of other cast members. Miss J and Jay Manuel were favorites of mine. They could be dismissive and disdainful at times, but I got the sense that they were much more genuine and kind than Tyra was. And I also thought they were legitimately funny and entertaining. Tyra was just nuclear level annoying to me– although I suspect, in her case, that behavior stems from the industry she made her name in, as well as– I suspect– perhaps some family trauma. I don’t know, and I’m not saying my suspicions are true. It’s just that in my experience, people who act like that often have an abusive past, delivered by their families. (raising my own hand, here…) The fact that Tyra has spent years as a model and an entertainer means that she’s also been exposed to a lot of the same types of people– many of whom are pretty damaged.

I do think Tyra Banks is legitimately beautiful, bright, and talented, but her personality comes across to me as entitled, fake, and manipulative. Unless she’s been doing some Oscar winning acting, she has a deep and obvious need for admiration and attention. It was especially clear in some of the widely circulated clips on the Internet showing, which some of ANTM’s craziest moments over its many years on the air.

I’ve studied a lot about narcissism, and it’s obvious to me that a lot of the people who made it on Top Model also suffered from abusive, traumatic pasts that turned them a bit Machiavellian. There are only a few cycles in which it seems like fewer people are drama queens. Those cycles, which I mostly found more pleasant to watch, tended to be the ones that weren’t as highly rated. For example, I loved Cycle 13, which was the “petite” cycle– All of the women were short, like me. I got the sense that they weren’t nearly as blackhearted as some of their taller counterparts. Maybe it’s because they have more concentrated oxygen at such low heights. Kidding, of course… ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am myself only about 5’2″.

So… about today’s title. It comes from Cycle 10. I had just finished watching Cycle 9, where I heard all kinds of red flag narcissism phrases like, “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” and watched Tyra be totally horrible to Ebony Morgan, a beautiful contestant who suddenly quit when she’d decided that being on the show wasn’t for her.

Tyra was awful to Ebony.

Ebony Morgan was clearly someone who’d had a very traumatic past, and determined that she didn’t enjoy modeling. She wisely and nobly decided to quit the show, and allow someone else to take her place. And Tyra said, “The most unattractive thing in the world to me is a quitter.” Really, Tyra? There aren’t less attractive people than that? How about child molesters? Would you put Ebony beneath someone like, say, Josh Duggar?

In that same cycle, there was a very smart “nerdy” young woman named Victoria. It was clear that Victoria had never really considered what modeling is all about. She was just very quirky and interesting looking. She came on the show and very quickly got the “bitch” edit. They had all of the contestants dress up like plants and Victoria was a cactus. At judging, she was deemed “prickly”, and when she stood up for herself, she was quickly chastised.

“You need to work on charm.” Can anyone blame Victoria for sticking up for herself? She actually wasn’t that assertive here… I’ve seen a lot worse on this show.

Anyone who ever watched ANTM remembers this gem from Cycle 4. It gets trotted out all the time as an example of how toxic this show could be. It doesn’t matter what Tiffany’s “attitude” was. Screaming at her the way she did is verbal abuse. And no, Tiffany… Tyra doesn’t care about you.

Tyra’s public, extreme, ass chewing was way out of line, even if Tiffany should have been eliminated. And she was basically chewed out because she wasn’t upset enough when she got the ax (at about the 5 minute mark).

And then there was my revelation last night, as I watched Paulina Porizkova talking to the models of Cycle 10 for the very first time. I actually loved Paulina on this show. She seemed very genuine, and didn’t behave like a narcissistic twat. She came up to a beautiful blonde woman named Kimberly and said something along the lines of, “You seem to have this High School Musical thing about you, but I sense you have a dark side. And if there is a darker side of you, bring it forth.” Then, she pantomimed as if the dark spirit would come out of Kimberly, exorcist like.

Kimberly also ended up quitting the show. She claimed it was because she didn’t enjoy modeling and couldn’t see spending $500 on a pair of shorts. Some time later, Kimberly was on Tyra’s talk show, where she explained her real reasons for quitting.

Kim doesn’t like modeling… and yet, her obituary mentions her love for modeling.
Kim explains… It turns out, she was experiencing some pretty serious mental health issues related to suicides by people close to her. In 2016, she took her own life.

Allison Kuehn was also on Cycle 10, and was eliminated early. I found her obnoxious when the show originally aired, but watching her last night was almost unbearable. She reminded me a lot of Donald Trump, especially after she got her makeover. She kept talking about how she was the most experienced and best model in the house, after she made some pretty offensive and racist comments to another contestant. When she got eliminated, she cried. It does look like Allison went back to real modeling, though, which is a credit to her, I guess.

Allison was obnoxious, but she certainly wasn’t the only one…

There are so many other examples… I’ve written posts about Renee Alway, for example. I was a fan of Renee’s, in spite of her manipulative, spiteful, and envious behaviors. I thought Renee was absolutely gorgeous, and I thought she had a lot of potential on many levels. Sadly, Renee has had a lot of very serious interactions with law enforcement. She’s been in an out of prison after committing armed robberies, domestic violence, and drug crimes. There were times when Renee seemed open and vulnerable, and that made me think she wasn’t a completely black hearted person. I still don’t think she is. But she had some very serious problems that I don’t think were helped by being on America’s Next Top Model.

Likewise, Renee’s fellow cohort and sometime friend, Jael Strauss, also had severe difficulties after being on ANTM. I didn’t like Jael that much when I first saw her, but now that I’m watching again, I find her very endearing and entertaining. She seemed like a genuinely kind soul. Unfortunately, she had a terrible problem with drugs, to the point at which she appeared on Dr. Phil. And then, in December 2018, after a two month battle with inflammatory breast cancer, Jael passed away at age 34.

So sad. She deserved better than “help” from Dr. Phil. He’s as bad as Tyra.

Angelea Preston was another contestant who, I think, got exploited on ANTM. I didn’t really care for Angelea’s appearances on three cycles of the show, although I’ve looked her up since her last appearance, and I’m impressed by how she’s recovered. Angelea has proven that she’s a survivor, and is telling her story… having “won” the All-Stars edition of the show, and then been disqualified for briefly working as an escort. After she was disqualified, Lisa D’Mato, who had been on Cycle 5, won. Lisa is also speaking out about ANTM, and Tyra has reportedly blocked her on social media.

One last person I want to mention is Jenah Doucette, who was in Cycle 9. She was a very strong competitor. I ran across a very informative Reddit thread she started, inviting people to ask her anything. It seems like she’s doing pretty well now, but she admits that she had a very hard time after being on ANTM. She says she is a recovering alcoholic, and has been through therapy. She might have been an alcoholic anyway, and she might have needed therapy anyway. However, I doubt that the experience of being on that show was very helpful to her.

I probably shouldn’t watch these old episodes of Top Model, but I’m finding them very engrossing and, I’ll admit, often entertaining. They help pass the hours before Bill gets home on Friday. And, if you’re interested in psychology, it is interesting to pay attention to the interactions among the contestants, especially so many years later.

Thanks to reading Good Girls, falling back down the “fashion rabbit hole”, and watching old episodes of Top Model, I’ve also started reading Jay Manuel’s novel, The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. I don’t read many novels anymore, but I couldn’t resist this one. I suspect the book is highly influenced by his time with Tyra Banks, who is now a former friend of his. Stay tuned for a fresh review, which I hope will come sooner, rather than later…

For now, I need to walk the dog, play guitar, and go buy some more half and half at the store. Then, I’ll probably dive back into my ANTM reruns, which do a good job of keeping me from binge watching YouTube DWI videos. So, have a happy hump day. Catch you later.

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book reviews, mental health, psychology

A review of Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, by Hadley Freeman…

Leave it to Amazon’s suggestive selling feature to sell me things I didn’t think I wanted. Before last month, I had not heard of journalist Hadley Freeman, or her new book, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, which was published on April 18, 2023. Now that I’ve just finished reading Freeman’s personal story about her experiences with anorexia, along with anecdotes from people she knew when she spent months in eating disorder programs in London, I can say that I’d definitely read another one of her books. She has a very engaging style, and her talent for turning phrases makes her writing interesting and an overall pleasure to read.

I also enjoyed Hadley Freeman’s story, because she and I are somewhat close in age. I’m almost six years older than she is. There was a time when that would have been a significant age gap, but once you get to middle age, that gap really isn’t so wide anymore. Her book was interesting to me, because we were young at the same time. I got a lot of the cultural references she made. Good Girls is about her experiences with anorexia nervosa, but it’s also about the experiences of people she met while “in hospital”. A number of the women she interviewed are my age or slightly older. I could relate to them and their stories because of that closeness in age.

Freeman included some interesting anecdotes about some of the cases involving her fellow patients that invite more research and study for my blog. Regular readers know I’m a sucker for a scandalous story, and she made me aware of a couple of them in her book. Perhaps on a day when I have writer’s block, I will think to revisit Good Girls and be reminded of those stories, which I will then write about. As I’ve discovered through blogging since 2010, I’m not the only one who is a sucker for a scandal… even the low level ones that are only interesting on a local level. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Everyone has a story, and Hadley Freeman is no different. She is a British-American journalist who was born to a Jewish family in New York City. Freeman spent her early life in New York, where her father worked in finance. Freeman has dual American and British citizenship, and continues to live and work in both countries.

When Hadley was eleven years old, her family moved to London, and Hadley was plunged into a similar, but different culture. I could relate to that. I was born in Virginia, but moved to England when I was about three years old. I stayed in England until I was almost six years old. Although I was in England as an “Air Force brat”, that experience really left a mark on me, and I can remember being bewildered when we moved back to the US, having doubled in age. Granted, Hadley Freeman was eleven when she moved, so surely she had a concept of countries and continents and such. But there are some significant differences between life in the United States and life in England. As Freeman points out, New York and London, though both big cities, are very different. Hadley had some trouble adjusting.

When she was about fourteen years old, Hadley began suffering from anorexia nervosa severe enough to land her in the hospital. She spent the next three years in and out of different psychiatric hospitals in London, occasionally being treated by an arrogant doctor who apparently did more harm than good. Most of the hospitals where Freeman was treated are not specifically named in this book; Freeman does mention one clinic that was eventually renamed where a fellow patient had spent time and was exposed to a predatory male nurse. I did some preliminary research about the nurse and found his case was covered in the news. I’ll be reading more about him.

Freeman’s experiences put her in contact with other people who suffered from eating disorders, including a few men. Not everyone she met had anorexia; some were diagnosed with bulimia, while others were compulsive or binge eaters. Because the hospitals were residential, she had the opportunity to get to know the other patients. She eventually lost contact with her fellow patients, as social media wasn’t a “thing” in those days, and she had been discouraged from keeping in touch with them. Therapists had told her that staying in contact with other people with eating disorders could encourage her to keep up the destructive behaviors that had led to anorexia.

Years after her final release from hospitals, Hadley Freeman decided to reach out to some of her old friends. She found that a number of them were eager to speak to her about their experiences. So, while Freeman writes about her time on the eating disorder wards in the 1990s, she also includes stories from others she knew back then. In one case, the story didn’t come from the fellow patient, as she had died by her own hand. Instead, Freeman spoke to the woman’s family. This particular patient was a talented actress who had starred in some television and theatrical shows before she ended her life. I had not heard of her before I read Good Girls, but I looked her up and now I want to know more about her.

The theories and treatment modalities for treating eating disorders were different in the 1990s than they are today. I read several Amazon reviews from irate readers claiming that Freeman’s book is “dangerous” because she doesn’t delve into the most recent research regarding eating disorder treatment. I don’t think this book is supposed to be about current treatments or theories. It’s a memoir. Freeman is writing about her experiences in the 1990s. There is an audience of people who would be interested in reading about Freeman’s experiences during that era, even if the information she includes is not as useful to people who suffer from eating disorders today.

Many years ago, I read Cherry Boone O’Neill’s 1982 book, Starving For Attention. Cherry Boone O’Neill is Pat Boone’s eldest daughter. She suffered most extensively from anorexia nervosa in the 1970s. Her book includes theories and treatment modalities from that time, which would probably be thought of as “wrong” and “dangerous” today (even though Cherry ultimately survived and has five adult children). I wouldn’t go to Cherry’s book for information about how to help someone with an eating disorder in 2023. I don’t think that’s its purpose. It’s a story about her experiences, which has worth in and of itself. I think I feel the same way about Hadley Freeman’s book, Good Girls.

I wouldn’t recommend Good Girls to a worried parent or spouse of someone with an eating disorder, desperate for solutions or answers as to why eating disorders happen. There are other books written by experts for that purpose. Freeman does include comments from physicians and mental health professionals about today’s treatments, but I didn’t really feel like that was the main idea of her book.

Freeman eventually became a “functional anorexic”, after “cramming” at different British schools to pass her “A-levels”. She wound up earning her university degree at Oxford University, and then curiously embarked on a career as a fashion journalist. She found she had an “in” with people in the fashion industry, because she was very thin. After about ten years of that, she moved on to other areas. She’s written for The Guardian and The Telegraph, and she has also penned other books. I enjoyed Good Girls enough that I would seek out her other books– after I’ve read a few that have been sitting in the “to be read” queue for awhile.

I do wish Freeman had expanded a bit more on the British education and healthcare systems. I wouldn’t have expected an in depth explanation per se, but a little bit of information about the differences between the U.S. and British systems may have been helpful to the many American readers whom I suspect will read this book. The U.S. healthcare system is much more expensive for consumers than the British system is. Freeman also mentions “sectioning”, which could be a foreign concept to US readers, as the U.S. system doesn’t really have “sectioning”, which allows healthcare professionals and family members to involuntarily commit adults for mental health treatment for illnesses that are life threatening.

Yes, a person can be involuntarily committed in the United States, but it’s my understanding that the system is broader in Britain, which allows for commitment for illnesses like anorexia nervosa that put a person’s life at risk. In the United States, the criteria for commitment is set by individual states and is more focused on an individual’s civil rights and potential for harming or killing other people. A look at the number of people who have been recently killed by gun violence in the United States might offer a clue at the discrepancy between the U.S.’s system and Britain’s system.

Overall, I’m glad I read Good Girls. I know a lot of people with eating disorders might not like it and will protest that it lacks value due to its “dangerous and outdated” discussions of eating disorder treatments and theories from the early 90s. I would like to remind those readers that discussions about past treatments and theories are still worth reading about, if only because they provide a historic view of how things were handled in the past. History is useful, as it offers a look at where we’ve already been. This book isn’t a volume on how to treat eating disorders in 2023, although it does include some commentary from healthcare professionals of today. It’s mostly a memoir, and should be regarded as such.

On a side note… maybe one distressing side effect of reading Good Girls is that Freeman mentions the fashion industry and certain models of the 1990s and 00s. Because of that, I fell down a rabbit hole, watching America’s Next Top Model. Talk about toxic! I’ve written about that show a few times, but I have a feeling this latest look will spawn some fresh content… particularly after I watched Cycle 8, which starred Renee Alway and the late Jael Strauss. I hadn’t watched ANTM in years, but I’m hooked again, and I think it merits some discussion. So stay tuned, if that piques your interest.

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money, psychology, scams, true crime, videos, YouTube

Sleazy PayPal scammers and phishers are running amok!

Featured photo is PayPal’s logo, which is in the public domain.

Good morning, knotty crew. After a day of reflection, I’m back with some new content. In the past 24 hours, I see there’s been yet another mass shooting. And the anti-abortion wars continue to rage in my homeland, putting more and more women at risk. I could write about either of those topics today. I could have written about them yesterday, too. I just don’t want to… I need a break from both of those subjects.

So… today, I wish to air a grievance I have regarding PayPal scammers and phishers. Now… to my knowledge, I have not yet actually been victimized by these criminals. However, I have to admit, their tactics are becoming scarier, as they now send their fraudulent emails from what appears to be an actual PayPal address. Yesterday, I got three emails from these fuckers. I reported all three, not that it will do any good.

I knew this email was bullshit, because I rarely use PayPal to pay for things. Also, while I think Bill might have an Acer computer, I am a confirmed Apple user. I never would have bought anything like this. But the biggest clue that this email is fake is that it doesn’t address me by name. It comes from a site I’ve never heard of, and would never use. Obviously, the folks who are sending this shit are hoping people will panic and call them, so they can try to talk the victims into allowing them to remotely install keystroke trackers and wipe out their money.

I don’t keep money in my PayPal account, but I know some people use it as a sort of bank. I mainly only use PayPal when I can’t use my credit cards, which are US issued. Sometimes European vendors can’t accept them or don’t allow for me to enter my US billing address. PayPal comes in handy in those situations. I almost never receive money through PayPal.

I usually just trash these emails as a matter of course, but yesterday, I decided to look carefully at the sender’s address. I was surprised to see that it came from a legitimate PayPal address. And, unlike other phishing emails, this one didn’t have any obvious tip offs that it was fake. There weren’t any glaring misspellings or design flaws that would arouse suspicion in the savvy. It also came to the email address I use for my PayPal dealings.

I logged into my PayPal account and checked my recent transactions, just to make sure there weren’t any pending charges. I was relieved to find that there wasn’t any recent activity indicating that something was amiss. Other people who have reported about this particular email scam have said that they did find invoices pending in their accounts. Some of them panicked, called the fake call center, and got taken to the cleaners.

Even though I knew the emails I got were fake, I decided to do some cursory research to see what the Internet was reporting about this scam. I found quite a few articles from cybersecurity firms explaining these surprisingly realistic looking phishing attempts. The open invitation to call a phone number to cancel the transaction is a big clue. Why would PayPal openly admit that the invoice might be fake, and actually INVITE people to call them? It doesn’t exactly promote confidence in their product.

Some reporters wrote that when they called the number, it was answered on the first ring. The person who answered was clearly not in a call center in California, as they could hear traffic and people in the background. The person also had a very strong accent that indicated that English wasn’t their first language, although granted, a lot of companies do have call centers abroad. But mainly, the fact that the phone was answered on the first ring was a major red flag. PayPal never answers on the first ring.

It’s infuriating that these crooks are using legitimate businesses to perpetrate their crimes. PayPal allows users to invoice each other, which is why these creeps can take advantage of the official email address. The fact that the emails come from PayPal make it pretty much a sure bet that the emails will get through the spam filters. Even though I know I didn’t buy an Acer computer through PayPal, there are other people out there who aren’t that astute. A lot of people have been victimized through these scams, which only encourages the lowlifes to continue their criminal activities.

So what is a person to do if they get one of these emails? Frankly, I say if you know you didn’t buy anything, just send the email to the round file. Check your PayPal account, and if there is anything in your transaction history that shouldn’t be there and you feel you must speak to someone about it, call PayPal using a number on the actual Web site. Do NOT call the number on the email, which will probably be answered by scammers in a fake call center. Do NOT pay any invoice that you don’t recognize. Remember that an invoice is just a request for money. You don’t have to pay for things you never bought.

Always examine the emails very carefully before you take action. Look for clues that any PayPal emails you receive are fake, like misspellings, poor grammar, or graphics that aren’t quite right. If the email doesn’t address you by name, it’s probably fake. I shouldn’t have to state this, but don’t click on any links in a suspicious email. And again– don’t call the phone number, unless you just want to fuck with the scammers. I realize that some people do enjoy that kind of thing, but the whole point of these scam emails is to get you to call so they can talk you into downloading their remote viewing software. Sure, they’d like it if you just paid the invoice, but that’s not their goal. They want your information so they can clean out your bank account and rip off your identity.

If you want more information about this, have a look at YouTube. Lots of people have made videos and some have actually gone much further than I’d bother/dare to, just so they can show you exactly what the scammers do.

British barrister bares all about the PayPal invoice scam.
Another video about this “new” PayPal scam…
Another video… this one lamenting what the world is coming to… I like the way he describes the psychology of this scam, but I don’t like the way he ended the video with loud music as he continued speaking. However I do agree with him when he rhetorically asks why these scammers don’t get real jobs?

I just now decided to change my PayPal password, just to be safe. Interestingly enough, it was easy to do that on my computer. However, when I tried doing it with my iPad, I had to go through a total rigamarole, to include answering security questions that weren’t very clear, and entering a security code sent to my alternate email address. Even after going through two or three checks, there was still another. I finally clicked off the page and tried the password I so easily changed on my computer. It worked.

Of the three videos, I think the second one is probably the best. The third one is probably the most entertaining. The first one is especially good if you like bald Brits. And below is an entertaining video featuring a guy who enjoys scamming the scammers.

Bwahahahaha… I love these kinds of videos.

Anyway, I didn’t fall for the scam. I hope you won’t either.

In other news…

Bill and I are in the preliminary stages of planning our big vacation. I’m not sure where we’re going yet, but I do know it’ll be in June.

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