mental health, psychology, social media

You just never know what someone is going through in life…

Today’s post is about suicide. If you think that will trigger you, please move on to the next Internet station.

Over the twenty years I’ve been in Bill’s life, he’s repeatedly told me stories about his friends from high school, and how they helped him through that time in his life. Bill owes his career, in part, to his high school days. At his mother’s insistence, Bill joined Army JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps), and flourished as a cadet. He had grown up without consistent access to his father, so being in the JROTC helped him immensely, by providing him with positive male role models.

Unfortunately, Ex was also enrolled in JROTC, and that was how and where she and Bill met. She later tracked Bill down when he was in Germany the first time, and managed to marry him. We all know how that turned out. 😉 But in spite of the connection with Ex, JROTC was also a place where Bill met some great kids, most of them guys who were a lot of fun. His friend Mark, who committed suicide last month, was among them.

I wrote about Mark last month, even though I never had the chance to meet him. I was the one who told Bill about Mark’s death, as another one of Bill’s friends, who also “friended” me on Facebook, had announced it. Bill was really shocked by the news. He watched as his friends posted their reactions to Mark’s death, and their memories of knowing him. I felt sad for Mark’s friends and family members. Even though a number of them admitted that Mark had “demons”, they all had wonderful things to write about him. And even though they weren’t necessarily people who knew each other, they all shared in the commonality of knowing and loving this man who had violently left life on his own terms.

Sometimes, these things tend to happen in threes. When I initially wrote about Mark, I included some commentary about my cousin’s wife, who, in April, passed away of cancer. In another post, I also included some words about a guy I knew when I was in high school, who also had cancer and died on March 31st, having just turned 50 years old. I will be 50 next month, and I have been worrying a bit about my own health, lately. I have significant issues seeing doctors. So, although I’m sure I will need to pay a visit to one at some point, I’m having some trouble doing it. What makes things harder is when I hear or read about someone who commits suicide. Especially when they are presumably young and healthy. It makes me wonder what the point is of seeing doctors.

This morning, I’m realizing that the three deaths I thought had comprised that old adage of deaths happening in threes, actually weren’t that at all. Because since I wrote that post in mid April, two more people who have somehow affected my life have committed suicide. One of the people I’m referring to is country star, Naomi Judd, who abruptly ended her life on April 30th. Naomi’s death was tragic and shocking on many levels, but at least she’d lived a pretty full life. She didn’t live as long as she was physically able to, but she did live until an age at which a lot of people die for reasons other than suicide.

I wrote about Naomi, although I’m sure I’m not as affected by her passing as some people have been. I enjoy her music, and as a fellow human being who has experienced depression and anxiety, I have great empathy for the suffering she must have experienced to cause her to make such a decision. But this morning, I read an article on People.com about a man who spent some of Naomi’s last hours with her as they sat next to each other on a 90 minute connecting flight to Chicago. Strickland explained that Naomi “never met a stranger” and would talk to anyone.

At first, the man she sat next to on her last plane ride hadn’t realized she was famous. But they got to talking during that short flight, and Naomi had made a real impression on him. When he got news of Naomi’s death, he decided to reach out to her equally famous family via email. To my great surprise, I was feeling a bit choked up as I read about the man’s kind message to Naomi’s widower, Larry Strickland, who had been so concerned about Naomi flying alone. According to the People.com article:

“It’s a small comfort, I’m sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife, however briefly,” continued the note, which visibly sparked an emotional response from Strickland onstage. 

“Obviously, I didn’t know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you, and the life you shared together,” read the heartfelt email, which Strickland recited while choking up. “Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms about telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so.”

The man concluded his letter by telling Strickland about the “measure and impact” his late wife left on him during the brief time they spent together, and Strickland told the audience the message provided “great, great pleasure and comfort to me.”

What a great gift this stranger gave to Larry Strickland. It’s a reminder to everyone that famous people are no different than non-famous people. I’ve thought about Naomi a lot, lately, but I am so glad that her husband was able to be comforted by a stranger’s loving message to him.

Now comes the part of this post when I write about third suicide that has sort of affected me on some level. It’s a convoluted story, so bear with me, and keep in mind that this is simply from my perspective. Other people, I’m sure, have different perspectives. This is just my version of the truth.

Some readers– especially those who remember my original OH blog– might recall that in 2019, I abruptly moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I made that decision for a couple of reasons. I had actually wanted to move the blog for awhile, since Blogger isn’t the most professional or functional blogging platform out there. But I put off moving the blog, because I knew it would be inconvenient, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I finally moved it when it became clear that the old blog was becoming a liability. I had some readers who weren’t friendly to me, and they were stirring up trouble. I needed the extra security and functionality that WordPress offers.

I was legitimately shaken by the actions of this woman I had perceived was “stalking” me, and was in cahoots with our former landlady. I’ll call her “Jodi”, though that’s nowhere close to her real name. She had lived in our previous house immediately before us. She and her husband had left ex landlady’s house in September 2014, which was about halfway through their stint in Germany. Since they were still living in the community, and back then, I was sharing my travel blog in the local Facebook groups, Jodi started following me. Because the travel blog was also on Blogger, it was easy for her to find my rawer original OH blog. She decided to follow that blog, too, which probably led her to make some erroneous negative assumptions about me, and my character.

Perhaps because she was feeling curious, or maybe even a little guilty about moving out of ex landlady’s house, Jodi was regularly monitoring my blogs, even though she’d left Germany in 2016, or so. Occasionally, she would leave me “friendly” comments, always with a fake name. At first, the comments were nice, but then when I started having trouble with former landlady, she would leave comments that were shaming or chastising. One time, she asked me to edit something I had written that she was uncomfortable with, since she claimed it had wrongly implicated her. Basically, I had wondered why she and her husband had moved out of that house halfway through their tour in Germany. She had told us that she thought of the ex landlady and her husband as parents to her, and claimed they were wonderful people. And yet, she had to move. The story she told me was one that didn’t ring true to me, based on my experiences with the Army. Jodi insisted that she’d told us the truth… but I still had my doubts. I wasn’t born yesterday.

Jodi was “buddies” with our ex landlady, and in February 2019, a few months after Bill and I had vacated our previous house, she sent me a private Facebook message that really upset me. I had already blocked her on social media before I even saw the message, so when I finally discovered it on my Facebook page for this blog, she showed up as “Facebook User”. In that post, she chastised me for a new fiction blog I was starting. She’d read my initial posts on the fiction blog and mistakenly believed that I was going to write a “hatchet piece” about our former landlady’s daughter. She wrote that ex landlady’s daughter read my blog regularly and would be offended. Then she implied that I’m “crazy” and begged me not to “harass” the ex landlady by writing about her.

Now… the fact is, I have NEVER met our ex landlady’s daughters. Putting it lightly, ex landlady and I definitely weren’t friends, and I don’t think she would have condescended to introduce me to her family members, other than her husband. I didn’t even know her daughters’ names, and had not so much as been in their presence. I’m sure Jodi wouldn’t have believed me if I told her that, because I think she was wholly convinced that I’m a mean, unhinged, person who lies. You can say a lot of things about me, but I am generally a truthful person. I’ve written a lot of negative stuff about Ex, for instance, but now that I corroborate my posts with actual evidence, you can see where my posts are coming from. I may express things that are “ugly” and negative, but by and large, I am truthful.

One time, Bill met one of the landlady’s daughters, and he was impressed by her. He said she was very bright and articulate. She had a physical condition that made her different, but Bill did not mention this condition to me. The first paragraphs of my now deleted short story included a description of a character that had a physical condition similar to that of the ex landlady’s daughter’s. Naturally, “Jodi” read it, assumed that I was going to write a mean spirited story about her friend, and decided to pre-emptively stop me before I caused offense. However, writing a mean story about this woman I’d never even met hadn’t been my plan at all, and she hadn’t given me a chance to develop the character to what I had envisioned. I also didn’t know that Jodi had been sharing my blog with our ex landlady’s daughter, and probably ex landlady herself. It pissed me off that she was so concerned about her privacy, but had no regard for mine, even though my blog is, admittedly, public.

In her message to me, Jodi wrote I didn’t have the right to create a fiction story inspired by people in my life (from where did she think authors get their inspirations?) She implied that I’m a “hack”, and “begged” me not to drag her friends through the proverbial mud, even though they had treated us unfairly, and she had even corroborated some of my complaints in comments left on my blog (most of which she later deleted). Jodi’s false accusations, erroneous assumptions, and continuous meddling in what was my business, really made me angry with her. I felt violated and misunderstood by someone I had met in person only twice. It caused a lot of psychological angst, and I was very pissed. Some of my earliest posts in this rehashed blog spell that out.

It never seemed to occur to Jodi that I’m not a total shit. I would not have written a snarky story on the level that she was assuming. Even though I did write a few snarky fiction story posts in my original blog that had characters inspired by real people who bugged me, some of my characters are neutral, or even positive. The character she’d clued in on was going to be one of those, and was not actually based on ex landlady’s daughter. Above all, it was clearly FICTION, and very few people even bother to read my fiction.

The vast majority of readers of my blog aren’t at all connected with the military. Even if I had written a mean fiction story about people we both knew, most people reading wouldn’t be any the wiser. I figured that if my fiction bothered Jodi and her friends, they could exercise some self-discipline and find something else to read on another site. But, because we were planning to sue the ex landlady for illegally withholding our deposit, I decided to delete the fiction blog after only a couple of days. I had intended to restart it at some point, but just couldn’t find the heart to do it after Jodi’s meddling. Her actions really did some damage to me, although I’m sure she never thought about that, and likely didn’t even care. She didn’t seem to have much respect for me, and clearly expressed that she didn’t think of me as a “real” writer. I had also noticed some hits coming from places where she had family. I had a feeling some of them were watching my blog, too, and that made me feel kind of paranoid, even though most of what I write should have been of little to no concern to them.

For the past few years, I’ve had Jodi blocked on Facebook. I didn’t look her up, especially since I knew that she was very concerned about her privacy on the Internet. I really just wanted to forget about the whole incident involving my blog, as well as her seemingly shady behavior involving our previous house. However, since moving back to the States, Jodi had gotten a job with Bill’s company, and he’d noticed her on the company’s email list. A few days ago, he told me that she was no longer on the roster. She also wasn’t listed as a government employee.

That seemed strange to me, since I knew she was very much into her career and she seemed to be on an upward trajectory. But I just chalked it up to her moving on. I never looked her up online, because I knew she kept a low profile. I just wanted to forget about her, and how she’d made me feel. But, sometimes I get into trouble when I get bored. Sunday afternoon, I finally did a cursory search of Jodi’s name. I didn’t expect to find anything. Imagine my surprise when I immediately saw an obituary for her, along with a video of her memorial service, which took place several months ago.

I called Bill over and said, “I just found out why Jodi is no longer listed as an employee at your company.”

Bill was curious, so I showed him her obituary, which listed her at just 34 years of age. The obituary made it sound like she’d had a very full and vibrant life. Naturally, we were curious about what happened. I unblocked Jodi’s Facebook profile, and eventually found out that she, too, had committed suicide.

Let me just say this, in case anyone who knows “Jodi” happens to be reading this. I am truly very sorry for your loss. No matter what I might have thought of Jodi and her actions toward me, I know there were people in her life who loved her very much and are devastated by her decision to commit suicide. I am especially sorry for her two children, who are still so young. Losing their mother at such a young age will affect them forever. All I can do is offer a sincere prayer that they will have as much peace as they can possibly have, under these circumstances.

After I discovered Jodi’s cause of death, I realized that she and I had some things in common besides the Army, living in Germany, and having had the same landlady. When I was growing up, I was a horse enthusiast, like Jodi was. I had a horse and worked at a barn to help pay for his upkeep. Jodi was a barrel racer, but my discipline was hunt seat. I spent my high school years showing my horse and going to fox hunts and competitive trail rides. I gave up my horse when I went to college, although I would have loved to have brought him with me to school. To this day, I miss having horses in my life.

Jodi was an animal lover, as I am. She had a cute little dachshund, whom I met when Bill and I toured the house we rented after her. I am a hound lover too, although mine have mostly been beagles.

I like to travel, just as she did. That’s why we moved back to Germany. I had remembered Germany as a beautiful place, and wanted to come back here to live for a year or two. I never thought we’d be here for as long as we have. I swear, when Bill and I met Jodi and ex landlady in 2014, all we were looking for was a place to live after a very rough summer. We weren’t trying to make trouble for anyone. But then, writers who don’t sometimes stir up controversy are often pretty boring and unsuccessful. No matter what Jodi thought of what I do, I am a writer. And yes, I have actually been paid to write.

Just like Jodi, I have also struggled with mental health issues. I was treated for depression and anxiety for several years, and I have felt suicidal at times, although obviously I haven’t yet committed to the idea. I haven’t been on antidepressants since my early 30s, but there are times when I think I would be better off with some chemical assistance for my moods. But again… I don’t like visiting doctors.

Jodi’s loved ones have posted many pictures of her doing things she loved, living in beautiful places, and reaching for her goals. I haven’t got the foggiest idea why she decided that suicide was an appropriate solution for her problems. I won’t even try to guess. I just feel compassion for those left behind… and yes, that includes ex landlady and her daughter, whom I know were her friends. I hope Jodi has found peace. I wish we could have had a mature discussion, so that the whole mess and the misunderstandings with my blog could have been avoided.

You just never know what’s going on in someone’s life. I had no idea that Jodi was troubled in any way. She seemed like a person who had everything going for her. Clearly, some things weren’t going right, in spite of her facade. Wherever she is now, I hope she’s out of pain.

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family, money, musings, work

Repost: You’ll never make more than minimum wage…

Here’s a repost from January 16, 2016. I am reposting it because it sort of relates to today’s fresh content, right down to my sharing of Ron Block’s beautiful song, “Someone”.

Today’s post is going to be some personal, self-indulgent, introspective drivel that may not interest everyone…  apologies in advance.

Yesterday, a guy I used to work with who is now a Facebook friend posted a tribute to a retired Air Force colonel who recently died.  The colonel, whose name was Luke, had been a manager at the restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia where my friend and I used to work.  I never knew Luke, but I heard many stories about him.  He was one of those people who became legendary everywhere he went. 

My friend’s tribute to Luke was very moving and inspiring.  Luke knew my friend when he was very young and broke.  He stood up for my friend when others were against him.  He helped him become who he is today.  Luke was a few years younger than my dad and may have even run in the same circles with him a time or two.  He retired from the Air Force six years after my dad did; but he was a full colonel, while my dad retired as a lieutenant colonel.

The restaurant where my friend and I used to work was notorious in Williamsburg.  It had a great reputation as a place to eat, and a horrible reputation as a place to work.  The chef, who was also one of the owners, was rather famous because he’d been on television and written a lot of cookbooks.  He was also a Marine.  Having worked in his restaurant, I definitely picked up the military style that was used there to keep things running.  That didn’t mean there wasn’t chaos from time to time.  In fact, when I worked at that restaurant, my life felt like it was totally chaotic.  I was suffering from depression and anxiety and felt like I’d never amount to anything.  At that time, I was also living with my parents.  I was in my mid 20s and had a college degree and international work experience.  But I still felt like a big loser and was unable to find work that would help me launch. 

I remember the day in March 1998 that I decided to apply to work at that restaurant.  I’d had a huge fight with my father.  He told me he thought I was a very arrogant person and that I’d never succeed at anything in life.  He said, “You’ll never make more than minimum wage!”  At the same time, he and my mother were putting tremendous pressure on me to move out on my own.  I was paralyzed by depression and anxiety at the time, and their demands made me feel panicky, helpless, and hopeless.  I was also very angry about a lot of things, particularly that my parents seemed to be ashamed of me and didn’t seem to recognize that I really was trying to become a full fledged adult.

Immediately prior to working at the restaurant, I had been temping at the College of William & Mary.  I was there for several weeks, working in their admissions office, as well as several other places on campus.  I spent the longest time at the admissions office, where I filed away report cards, SAT scores, personal essays, and all of the other stuff hopeful high school kids sent with their bids to achieve admittance.  Having worked in the admissions office and in other places around the campus, I could see why people wanted to go there.  It’s an excellent and prestigious school.  Looking at all the stellar academic records and flawless personal statements written by potential students, I felt a bit sad for myself.  I was a college graduate working as a temp, filing endless reams of papers.  It was mind numbing work that didn’t pay well.

My sister is a William & Mary graduate.  She’s done very well for herself.  They never would have accepted me.  I didn’t measure up to my sister’s greatness, although I do have some things in common with her.  We are both returned Peace Corps Volunteers; we both have advanced degrees in public health; and we both worked at that same restaurant in Williamsburg.  She worked there when it first opened, and I worked there eighteen years later, when I decided I would make more than minimum wage and get on with my life. 

I remember being very determined on that day in March when I applied for the job at the restaurant.  It was my first time waiting tables, though I had worked with food in other capacities.  I had even been a cook.  I enjoyed working with food and thought I could be successful.  It also wasn’t lost on me that the skills one learns waiting tables can be applied to many of life’s trials.

As I sat for the interview, I thought of my dad and how pissed off he made me… and how much I wanted to get out from under his thumb.  It was my second attempt at getting a job at that restaurant.  I didn’t mention my initial unsuccessful attempt to the captain or the manager who interviewed me.  I knew if I got hired, I’d make money and be able to get away from my dad and his belittling comments.  I would someday prove myself.  I set my mind to it and got the job.  I’m still friends with the man who hired me.

Working at that restaurant was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  It was even harder than being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The work itself was very demanding and stressful.  It was physically and mentally challenging.  I remember coming in every day, when I first started working there, and feeling like I was going to throw up.  I lost a lot of weight and learned how to wait tables.  I made good money.  I was also sick a lot during those 18 months.  I saw a lot of people quit and a lot of people get fired.  I was incompetent as hell at first and worried that I, too, would get fired.  One time, I accidentally spilled beer on a customer.  My dad sneered when he heard about it and asked if I still had a job.  I did.  I learned that if you were reliable, worked hard, and were honest, you wouldn’t get fired.  And eventually, I became competent and even good at the job.   

I was promoted a couple of times and made enough money to cover all my bills.  Living with my parents allowed me to save up for the next step I needed to take.  I sought help for the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from my whole life.  That process, too, was very difficult for me.  I came to some tough realizations about people I cared about and trusted.  After a brush with insanity and suicidal ideation, I finally felt a lot better and made the decision to go back to school. I took the GRE and applied to graduate school and was accepted.  I haven’t had to look back.  It was my final escape from Gloucester County after several dramatic attempts, one of which being my decision to join the Peace Corps.

Going back to school was a life changing experience for me… as much as the Peace Corps was.  But, I have to admit, working at that restaurant with people who knew and loved Luke, was equally earth shattering in the grand scheme of things.  I never knew Luke, but seventeen years after quitting, I am still friends with many of the people I knew in the late 90s when I was working at that job.  I have read their tributes and comments about Luke.  I can see that they all think of him as a comrade or even family…  Maybe they even think of me that way.  I hated the job when I was doing it, but now I’m honored to be in that group of people.  We were the ones who didn’t quit and had achieved some success.

This morning over breakfast, I was talking to Bill about all this stuff on my mind.  I remembered how my dad had told me I’d never make more than minimum wage and would ultimately amount to nothing.  Back then, that comment was devastating to me.  I was in my 20s, and unsure of what to do with my life.  I felt like I was really struggling, even though others surely struggled more than I ever have.  I kept doing all of these things that I thought would help me succeed, yet nothing seemed to lead anywhere.  But now I think of my friend who wrote the tribute to Luke; he actually slept outside a couple of nights because he lived far so away from the restaurant and had to take buses to and from work.  He’d missed the last one and couldn’t afford a motel.  He did what he had to do to succeed in the job and survived.  Now he’s thriving, living in Washington, DC and enjoying what appears to be a very good life.

Thanks to my parents, I never had to sleep outside.  But I felt like I was never going to launch.  Now, I look back on what my dad said and realize that he had no reason to be ashamed of me.  While I may not be the highest achieving person on the planet, I’ve done alright.  And I have made more than minimum wage more than once.  Maybe I didn’t end up being as successful and awesome as my sisters have, but at least I found someone to love, who loves me back.  I haven’t done anything really shameful or embarrassing.  In fact, aside from being overeducated and too fat for my Dad’s tastes, I’m even living an enviable life.  Maybe that was part of his problem with me.  Maybe he felt like I didn’t deserve what I have.  He probably thought I wasn’t living up to his idea of what my potential was… or maybe he was just projecting some of his psychic shit on me.  Who knows? 

Anyway, though I can’t say working at that restaurant was a whole lot of fun most of the time, I did learn a lot and met some fine people.  The skills I picked up have served me well in life.  In fact, I’d say in many significant ways, I ended up rather rich.  Reading my friend’s tribute to Luke made me realize something important.  Ripple effects can be positive.  Luke inspired and influenced my friend and my friend, in turn, inspired and influenced me.  I’d say that’s worth as much or more than minimum wage.  And I don’t have to be “someone” to be worthwhile.

This isn’t the way I feel about my dad, but it is kind of how I feel about success…  This song is called “Someone”.  It’s by Ron Block, a musician who has earned my admiration and gratitude.  The words are very wise and meaningful to me.  I think this song could be a theme for my life. (And at the time I wrote this post, Ron hadn’t shared a video of “Someone”, so I made one myself.)

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healthcare, mental health, psychology

“Please, Doc, don’t weigh me unless it’s really necessary!”

Yesterday marked the first day of National Eating Disorders Week 2022. Fittingly, a few days ago, I read an interesting article in the Washington Post about a new trend in U.S. healthcare. It involves special cards that one can hand to a physician. See below:

I like this idea.
From the More-Love.org Web site.

I haven’t seen a doctor since 2010. One of the main reasons I don’t visit doctors is because I once had a very traumatic and unnecessarily physically painful and humiliating experience with one. I did see doctors a few times after the traumatic experience, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten even harder to make the phone call for an appointment. I know very well that this isn’t the greatest policy for promoting my personal longevity. I could definitely use a check up. However, for many reasons, visiting medical people causes me a great deal of stress. One of the main reasons it’s stressful is because of that goddamned scale, and my long history with eating disorders. No, I don’t mean the obvious ones that might put a person in the hospital. There are actually a lot of eating disorders out there, and most don’t get diagnosed. But they do exist, and I’ve struggled with them for years. I have less of a problem with them now, mainly because I have a very loving and understanding husband who doesn’t body shame me. I would be lying, though, if I said those problems have gone away entirely. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.

I know I usually have less of a problem going to see a doctor if I know I won’t have to be weighed. For instance, in 1999, I had facial cellulitis that almost put me in the hospital. I had to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor for treatment. He was a great doctor, but one thing that I especially liked about him was that he didn’t force me to get on a scale. He simply looked at the mess on my face and prescribed antibiotics. The family practice doctor who sent me to the ENT guy was kind of an all knower, but he actually reassured me that my weight wasn’t that bad. At that time, it wasn’t that bad, since I was waiting tables and lost a lot of pounds because of that. However, I was never so sick, so often, as I was in those days.

Although I know weight is an important measure for some health issues, I think it’s pretty cool that someone has realized how absolutely mortifying getting on the scale is for some people. The above cards were offered at Element Primary Care in Omaha, Nebraska. A 30 year old woman named Dani Donovan, who is an attention deficit/hyperactivity advocate and suffers from binge eating disorder, happened to see the cards at the office. Donovan reportedly avoids going to see physicians because of the stress of being weighed. She happened to find a practice where, apparently, the staff recognizes this issue, and how it prevents people from seeking care. According to the WaPo article:

“I didn’t even know that saying ‘no’ to being weighed was a thing you could do,” said Donovan, 30, an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder advocate who has a binge-eating disorder and often avoided doctor’s appointments because being weighed was so stressful. The card led to a good conversation with her doctor, Donovan said, that helped build trust and make her feel empowered.

Donovan took a photo of one of the cards and posted it on Twitter. It’s caused quite a stir.

These cards were developed in 2019 by a Los Angeles area eating disorder coach named Ginny Jones. Jones is a survivor of several eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. Jones came up with the cards after many experiences she had when visiting physicians. A lot of them would praise her for losing weight, even when it was noted in her records that she has had eating disorders. She now offers the cards for sale on her Web site. When Jones was contacted for a statement about her cards, she said:

“I wish I could say I was surprised by the ‘controversy’ around the cards. I created them to address weight stigma, and it’s basically fatphobia to jump to conclusions and say blanketly that asking not to be weighed is unhealthy.”

Personally, I think these cards are great, although I can’t imagine presenting one to any of the military doctors I’ve seen in my lifetime. But then, again, I haven’t been to see a doctor in about 12 years. My blood pressure shoots up whenever I’m in a military healthcare facility, and they usually take one look at me and assume I have any number of health issues just by my appearance. I have found that a lot of doctors aren’t good listeners, either. That is especially true with military providers, in my experience.

In 2007, before we moved to Germany the first time, I actually wore an ambulatory blood pressure monitor for 24 hours to prove that I didn’t have hypertension, because my blood pressure readings were so high in the office. As soon as I stepped out of the military hospital, my blood pressure was completely normal and stayed that way. I came back to the office the next day with a bruised arm and documentation in my file that I have white coat hypertension. That may no longer be true today, given my family history, but the way the providers acted during that last visit put me off of going back, even though the person I saw was actually very kind to me when I told her what had happened to me at the hands of an Air Force gynecologist back in the 1990s.

The Air Force gyno I saw back then gave me my very first (of two in my entire lifetime) gynecological exams. It was so painful and distressing that I left her office traumatized and horrified, and actually felt violated on the level of sexual assault. Besides really hurting me with her instruments and not apologizing for the pain she caused me, this doctor also fat shamed me and predicted that when I went to Armenia, I would gain tons of weight. In the 90s, I was dealing with eating disorders more acutely than I do today. Today, I seem to have replaced eating issues with drinking issues. Again… not healthy, and I probably should see a doctor, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Even having these cards probably wouldn’t get me into the office, although I do think they would help, if I found a kind and understanding physician who was sensitive to these issues.

According to the Washington Post article, as well as my own anecdotal experience, there are a lot of physicians who have a bias against obesity. They seem to take obese patients less seriously, especially if they’re women. The article reports, “one piece published in the British Medical Journal found that weight stigma actually led to increased mortality and other chronic diseases and ‘most ironically, (weight stigma) actually begets heightened risk of obesity.'” There have been a number of articles about how the medical community tends to focus on weight, even when a medical issue is clearly not related to the patient’s weight. Like, for instance, someone comes in with a broken arm and gets told that weight loss would benefit them. There’s no doubt, weight loss would be beneficial, but that’s not why the person came in to see the doctor. In that sense, I can see how these cards could be useful. If you’re going to see the doctor for a specific issue that has nothing to do with obesity, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing to skip the scale, at least for that visit.

Of course, some physicians will never be onboard with avoiding weigh-ins. In the WaPo article, a physician named “Umbereen S. Nehal, a former chief medical officer for Community Healthcare Network in New York and a board-certified pediatrician,” reported that she strongly believes patients must “be weighed every time, regardless of when they were last weighed or why they are in the doctor’s office.” The doctor claims to be have sympathy for patients like Donovan, but she’s not convinced that avoiding the scale will improve healthcare outcomes. She says, “Is the hypothesis that somebody who is obese, let’s say, if we don’t weigh them, fatphobia will go away? Those visual cues will not go away. So my beef with this is that it disrupts processes in the system for efficient data collection and that data are used for a variety of things.”

My answer to Dr. Nehal is that a lot of people avoid the doctor entirely because of this issue. She may be getting more data when she weighs patients at every visit, but a lot of people won’t even come see her because of the mortifying prospect of being weighed, the psychological stresses that come from that experience, as well as the potential humiliation that comes from a fat shaming doctor. Seriously… if you’re feeling fine, and you don’t want to deal with the discomfort of being weighed, how likely are you to schedule screenings? Is that the outcome Dr. Nehal wants? For people not to come in to see her at all? Then she won’t get ANY data, and the person will show up in the emergency room instead. And that will not only lead to poorer healthcare outcomes, but it will also lead to much higher medical bills.

Another doctor who was quoted in the article, Fatima Cody Stanford, an internist who specializes in obesity medicine, also insists that weight is an important measure. She notes that U.S. medical schools do a terrible job teaching students about weight, and that many people don’t visit their doctors very often. Stanford says she would tweak the card to something that says:

“I’m happy to get weighed but please do not provide any negative or derogatory comments associated with my weight.”

That way, the doctor gets their data, and the patient doesn’t have to deal with fat shaming. I would add, though, that in my case, it would not be true that I am “happy to get weighed”. I hate being weighed every time. It causes me a lot of distress, and that’s why I avoid doctors unless I’m about to croak. So I think Dr. Stanford might want to rethink that wording, although I appreciate that she recognizes how upsetting being weighed is for some patients.

I looked at Element Primary Care’s Web site, and it appears that their approach to care is different on many levels. For instance, I notice they offer telemedicine appointments, focus on keeping their practice small, and it appears that instead of using a traditional insurance model, they provide care for a monthly fee. This eliminates co-pays and insurance deductibles, and allows patients to access care when they need it. The direct primary care membership plan can be combined with a high deductible/less expensive insurance plan which would cover hospital care or other unforeseen care needs that still use the traditional insurance model. I have heard of a growing number physicians’ practices eschewing traditional insurance coverage, which allows them to be able to make medical decisions that don’t have to go through third parties at insurance companies. I think it’s a great idea, although it will probably take some time for it to catch on nationwide. Change can be slow, but I do think overhauling our health insurance model could be a game changer for a lot of people.

At Element Primary Care, about half of the patients decline to be weighed, but some will weigh themselves at home and report their weight that way. Or, if they have a condition that requires their weight to be monitored, the patient can turn backwards on the scale, which is how many eating disorder patients get treated. That way, they don’t have to know that number, and it won’t affect their psyche. The cards allow the patients to advocate for themselves and be more of team member in their healthcare. It may also make them feel “safer” from judgment and humiliation. Personally, I don’t weigh myself at all anymore, and when I have gone to see the doctor, I don’t let them tell me how much I weigh. I know from personal experience that knowing the number can lead to distress.

I think the pandemic has caused a lot of issues with weight and mental health. I recently read that a number of young people have developed eating disorders during the pandemic. Even President Biden is addressing it, which is very fitting, since National Eating Disorders Awareness Week begins today. Kudos to Mr. Biden for bringing this up, since I know Trump doesn’t care about helping people with eating disorders. I recently read that doctors are seeing a lot of adolescents in emergency rooms, dealing with eating disorders. There’s also a lot of depression and anxiety being reported, due to the pandemic. I think any measure that makes seeking help easier is commendable.

While it may not always be medically appropriate to skip stepping on the scale, I like the fact that some healthcare professionals are noticing and addressing this issue. And I think it’s amazing that some people are empowering themselves by presenting these cards, although I would not be surprised if some people get lectured by their doctors for not being weighed. I would like to see less lectures from doctors as a general rule. People need to take ownership for their own health, and physicians need to stop seeing patients as people who need to be given orders or lectures about taking care of themselves. Especially if they are competent adults.

Anyway… I probably won’t be going to see a doctor anytime soon, and in fact, I hope I don’t live to be super old. I think it’s overrated. But I definitely think the cards are kind of cool, even if I’m sure they don’t always go over too well with more traditional physicians. I know that if I had given one to my ex psychiatrist, for instance, he probably would have laughed me out of his office. And he never weighed me once– but he did fat shame me quite a few times before I told him to stop. He also gave me a prescription for Topamax off label, hoping it would slim me down. Is it any wonder why I hate seeing doctors?

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mental health, nostalgia, poor judgment, psychology, social media

AITA? Nah… I don’t think so, even if you do…

Lately, I’ve been following Reddit Ridiculousness on Facebook. Every day, the person who runs that page shares certain over the top threads from the Am I The Asshole page on Reddit. I don’t follow Reddit much myself, but it seems to me that the person who shares the threads on Facebook deliberately picks the posts in which the person asking is very obviously NOT the asshole. Sometimes, the posts are a little bit triggering and provoke unexpected enlightenment. I share them with my friends and conversation develops. I like it when conversations develop, since they promote understanding… especially among people I actually know offline. A friend might reveal something about themselves as they comment on these threads which offers insight into who they are as people. Sometimes, I can relate.

For instance, back in my college days, I had a lot of “issues”. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from clinical depression and anxiety. The reason I didn’t know I was depressed was because I had been that way for so long that it was “normal” for me. I was always a very emotional person. Everything affected me, even really stupid things that should not cause me a moment’s pause. I would either think something was insanely funny and laugh inappropriately, or I would be so overcome with shame, humiliation, or anger that I would melt down in tears. I had a real problem regulating my emotions to the point at which some people thought I was bipolar (I’m not). I’m now surprised I got through those years without some kind of black mark on my permanent record.

I was also suffering from “disordered eating”. I hated my body, so I would attack it by doing unhealthy things. I used to skip meals all the time, which would make me kind of temperamental and mean. I hated going to the dining hall for many reasons. One time I didn’t eat for a few days, but then I broke the fast by drinking a lot of beer. I tried to exercise a lot. I wish I could say I did it because it made me feel good, but I probably mostly did it for optics, and to escape my roommates. I often thought of suicide, mainly because I didn’t know what to do with myself or why I was born.

My problems with dieting started when I was about eleven years old. I grew up with three sisters, and they were constantly dieting and running to lose weight. One of my sisters was like a rodent. She would always eat half of things and leave the rest in the packaging for someone else to find. We actually did have mice in our house, so this wasn’t a very hygienic practice. It was also very annoying for obvious reasons.

I never was one to be ritualistic about food. I didn’t count bites, hide food, or eat a certain number of bites. I would just skip meals. Because I went to a highly residential college, people would notice and sometimes say things to me. I would feel both embarrassed and kind of gratified that anyone cared. I’m sure it was annoying behavior, though… and I’m not particularly proud of it. Sometimes I did it for attention, and sometimes I did it because I actually wanted to self-destruct.

There were other times, besides my college days, when I engaged in these kinds of weird food related behaviors. I usually did them when I had to live with other people who weren’t family, but I did it with family, too. Often, I would skip meals after my dad yelled at me, criticizing my weight or appearance or touching me on the back, telling me I had “fat” I needed to lose. I remember one distinctly humiliating incident involving my father. My mom had been trying to force us all to lose weight and I ate more than my dad thought I should have. So he screamed at me and said, “You hog!” A few days later, my mom asked me what I was “living on”, since she hadn’t seen me eat. That was the only time I remember her ever being concerned, even though I regularly skipped lunch at school. My parents were very image conscious, and I never really did seem to measure up, at least when I was a child. They often had a complaint about my appearance, personality, the way I smelled after being at the barn, or even the way I laughed. So I tried to change, sometimes in the very needy, attention seeking ways that I thought might “show them”. It was all very stupid and immature, but I was definitely not the only one doing it.

There were times when skipping meals caused negative consequences… like the time I lost out on Champion of my division at the state 4H horse show because I had neglected to eat. I was so dazed when we finally got in the show ring that the judge never saw me and my beloved Rusty. We had won first place in the first class, but didn’t even make the “cut” for the second. After the class, we went back to the barn and I was unbraiding Rusty’s tail when I heard my name, summoned back to the ring. It turned out we’d ended up tying for Reserve Champion and had to hack off for the honor, which Rusty and I won. As I was accepting the ribbon, the judge asked me where I had been! Maybe the end result would have been the same if I hadn’t been so focused on not eating instead of what we were doing. Either way, I felt like such an asshole after that class because we hadn’t done our best and it was my fault.

We won this class out of maybe 75 ponies or so… I was shocked.

We could have been champs! Oh well… this was still kind of a thrill. Not a day passes that I don’t miss Rusty. He was my best friend.

Although I was never a thin person, I did used to skip meals all the time. Most of the time, I didn’t seem to suffer any ill effect, except on the occasions when I would faint. But even those episodes didn’t seem to be because I skipped meals. It was more because I would be drinking something on an empty stomach, swallow too hard, cause myself a lot of pain, and have a vasovagal response. I haven’t had one of those fainting episodes in a long time, but when I was younger, they happened occasionally.

When I think back on those days, I feel like an asshole for wasting my youth on so much nonsense. It really was a waste of time to be so obsessed with something as pointless as dieting and weight loss. But in those days, it felt very important. I felt like no one cared, even though I know now that that wasn’t the truth. The truth was, in those days, there were people in my life who cared about me. They just weren’t necessarily my parents. I do know my parents loved me, but they had their own issues, and were trying to run their own business. And I had “crashed” their party by being born when they thought they were done having children. I was too loud, too opinionated, and too rambunctious and obnoxious at a time when they had hoped to relax.

Because I often cracked jokes, people thought I was witty and funny, and they equated being funny with being happy, which I definitely was not. The ability to make people laugh is not a sign that a person loves life. Just look at the number of comedians who have committed suicide or suffered from substance abuse problems. I know a lot of people like to point to Robin Williams as an example of a brilliant comic who committed suicide and hold him up as a poster child for treating depression and suicidal ideation. Personally, I don’t really lump Robin Williams in with people like Richard Jeni and Ray Combs.

Although Robin Williams did commit suicide, he also had a devastating neurological illness that was going to kill him after it made him lose his mind. Robin Williams had Lewy Body Dementia, which is absolutely horrifying. That was the disease that ultimately killed my dad, and after seeing what my dad went through, I would never judge someone for opting for suicide instead of going through that hell. Actually, I generally try not to judge people for committing suicide in most cases. I don’t think it’s my place. Now, I might judge someone for attempting suicide when it’s obvious they’re doing it to be manipulative. But even in those cases, I figure a person has to be hurting a lot to go to that extreme for attention. On the other hand, having to live with someone who pulls kind of manipulative bullshit is also hell.

It bugs me when people hold up Robin Williams as someone who just needed a caring friend and some antidepressants, and that would have prevented him from killing himself. Although he reportedly didn’t know he had LBD when he took his life, he did already have the symptoms of it. Having seen my dad go through that disease, I can tell you that it legitimately makes people irrational, taking away their minds as it wastes their bodies. Think Parkinson’s Disease mixed with Alzheimer’s Disease and all of the indignities that go with either of those diseases; then think of having to suffer both at the same time. That pretty much sums up LBD. Robin Williams was diagnosed only after he died, and doctors said it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen. And it had come for him heartbreakingly early. Robin Williams was only 63 when he died. My dad was 81 when he died, but he’d been suffering from LBD for years.

In just a few months, I’ll be 50 years old. I don’t know what I have to show for it, which sometimes bothers me. But then I realize how much time is wasted on stupid shit, like social media. Yesterday, I quit a Facebook group because I got “modded” for something really trivial. In the past, I might have stuck around and tried to argue with the admin. But when I got a message saying that a comment of mine was “removed by an admin” and I should “click for feedback”, I just shrugged and said to myself, “this group is not for me.” And I said “fuck it” and clicked the “leave group” option. Then I wondered for a moment if that was the admin’s goal… to drive people away. But they’ve got 15k members, anyway, so my presence isn’t needed. Then I said “oh well” and took the dogs for a walk. By the time we got back, my mind was on something else… finishing my latest jigsaw puzzle, which I didn’t manage to do.

Why so serious? I’m in the middle, second row, looking depressed, as I often did in the early 90s… and also in the 80s. I was a lot thinner and prettier in those days, too. I should have enjoyed it more, and fretted and obsessed much less. I came very close to quitting this choir because of a row I had with someone. Ironically, it was my dad who talked me out of doing that.

I remember college to be a lot of fun, but it was also a cesspool of people who were dealing with personal problems that most of us knew nothing about. There was often a lot of silly drama and high school antics that went on in those days… things that I thought were so significant at the time, but I now see were ridiculous. I can remember judging people for the way they behaved, without ever really considering why they behaved that way. Years later, I have had the chance to reassess a few people I used to dislike because I didn’t know them very well, and they didn’t know me. I don’t always get those second chances, though, so when they happen, I try to be grateful.

I have since learned that most people who seem like assholes really aren’t; they’re just dealing with something big that no one else knows or cares about. And I think people in their teens and twenties tend to be mired in a lot of drama, anyway. In many cases, it’s really petty drama, but even petty drama can seem huge when a person doesn’t have the life experience they get as they age. On the other hand, there are some unfortunate souls who never learn from the petty dramas and act like they’re about sixteen when they’re in their fifties. Those types of people are always fun to deal with… and in many cases, they really are the assholes that become the banes of everyone else’s existences.

These days, I don’t skip meals very often. It’s probably because Bill notices when I’m hungry and feeds me. He says he can tell when I’m hungry by the way I look, and the fact that I will sigh a lot and get short tempered. I’ll flush red, then get pale and shaky, then plunge into confusion if it goes on for too long. It amazes me that I used to be able to go without eating for as long as a couple of days or more. I can’t do it anymore. I feel pretty sure if I tried, I’d probably pass out… or Bill might decide I am the asshole and file for divorce. I do still have issues with depression, though, and sometimes anxiety, although that’s not as bad as it once was, either. I don’t even cry very often at all anymore, although I still laugh a lot and crack inappropriate jokes… or fart loudly at the breakfast table. Okay, maybe I am the asshole for doing that. Fortunately, Bill doesn’t mind laughing with me.

Thanks to Livingston Taylor for this… it could be my theme song for life with Bill.

Even when I feel like a huge failure when I look at my life and where I feel like I *should* be, I realize that where I am isn’t actually a bad place to be. At least I managed to marry someone who likes me just the way I am. Yes, he also loves me, but more importantly, at least in my opinion, he likes me. He doesn’t want me to change. He doesn’t call me names or tell me I’m disgusting. He doesn’t say he’s sick of me, as my father did on more than one occasion. He also doesn’t do things like pee in the toilet and leave it for me to discover, as my dad did on occasion when I was in my twenties and temporarily living in his house. Somehow, in spite of everything, I found the right man… at the very least. As Livingston Taylor sings, “I Must Be Doing Something Right”. 😉 At least he doesn’t think I’m the asshole, right?

There’s a lot of wisdom in this song. Just remember… just about everything is insignificant, when it comes down to it.
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lessons learned, musings, narcissists

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…”

Special thanks to singer-songwriter Facebooker extraordinaire, Janis Ian, who posted today’s featured photo on her Facebook page a day ago. I follow Janis Ian, but I’m not one to watch her obsessively. I think she’s often funny and thoughtful, but sometimes she’s a little too “woke” for my tastes. I know that comment might annoy some people. I know some people really think it’s cool to be super “woke”. I’m not there yet. I will probably never be there. I am definitely more left leaning than I once was, but I’m never going to be one of those people who is trying to be an “example” to others. Hell, I have enough trouble simply accepting myself as I am.

I do, however, see a lot of wisdom in Janis Ian’s recent “quote of the day” from an unknown source. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been left feeling terrible because of a regrettable exchange with someone. There have been times when I’ve said or done something that has upset or offended someone and have felt terrible about it forever. When that happens, I will self-flagellate, feeling like total shit, and withdraw from others. I think some people get the mistaken impression that I’m being a snob or that I feel like I’m “above” them in some way. That’s really not true at all. I just don’t like to feel like I annoy people. I feel like it’s better to stay home. This COVID-19 lifestyle, in some ways, is a good thing for me. I have a good excuse not to mingle.

From the time when I was a small child, I’ve gotten the message from important people that I wasn’t acceptable or “good”. Now… it IS true that some people love me for exactly who I am. Bill is one of those people. He doesn’t find me annoying at all. He never criticizes my laugh. He doesn’t tell me to lose weight or put on makeup. He doesn’t grouse about the fine layer of dust on the furniture or the fact that I can’t be arsed to get out of my nightgown if I’m not leaving the house. Instead, he’s kind and loving, and he never makes me feel like I’m worthless.

But even though my husband loves me for who I am and that makes me feel good, sometimes I do have trouble with my self-worth. I’ll give you a ridiculous “for instance”. Those of you who have been following me for awhile may know that Bill and I had some real trouble with a previous landlady. This lady seemed to have a real problem with me. She clearly didn’t like me, and seemed to judge me negatively for my lifestyle.

At first, her criticisms were couched in pleasantries and niceties. But, as time went on, she became more hostile and negative. I started to feel badly about myself. I remember feeling anxious, living in her house, as she would come over and I would watch her face as she took in the “appearance” of our house. It’s true, I am not an obsessive housekeeper, but I’m certainly not a filthy person. I don’t spend all of my free time polishing glassware, wiping down baseboards, or using a microfiber dust rag to clean the dust between the pipes on the towel warmer or heaters. I just can’t be bothered to be that detailed. It’s not worth my time. But I do empty the garbage, wipe down the counters, clean the toilets and shower, wash dishes, and do laundry. And I do vacuum, clean up the dog shit, and do other chores as needed.

However, she’s the type of person who would do those extremely anal retentive cleaning chores on a regular basis. I would see her expression darken when she noticed a pile of leaves that was left unswept. One time, I watched her aggressively shovel snow off the driveway. I had made a walkway for the postman, which was what was required, but since I wasn’t going anywhere and was feeling sick, I put off shoveling the whole thing. She came over, unannounced as usual, and got visibly pissed that I hadn’t done the whole driveway. I could feel her radiating disapproval. Naturally, that made me feel bad, because I don’t like to disappoint people. I resolved to make sure the driveway was perfectly shoveled after other snowstorms, even if I was sick.

Another time, she read me the “riot act” when she saw a “dust bunny” consisting of Arran’s hair that was caught in the doorway. She yelled at me that the hair was “encrusted”. Of course it wasn’t, and it took maybe two seconds to wipe it up. I hadn’t noticed it because it really was insignificant, but she saw it and freaked out. Then she screamed at me about it, and even mentioned it in an email to Bill. She asked him at one time if we’d like her to find us a housekeeper, nastily adding “Don’t you want to live in a clean house?”

Wow… I’ll tell you what. The very LAST thing I would want is to hire a housekeeper that she found for us. Especially since it later became very clear that she wasn’t respecting our privacy. Aside from that, she wasn’t living in the house, so I didn’t feel that I needed to keep the house cleaned to her standards. Especially since we were paying her too much for the “privilege” to live there. And also, the house wasn’t that clean when we moved in, but then she and former tenant were “buddies”. I guess she got a pass.

Now, a lot of people might tell me that I should just ignore those comments, but I genuinely felt bad when she’d send Bill emails about my deficiencies as a housekeeper. I felt terrible and, at first, very ashamed, when she would yell at me for things that she felt weren’t “up to snuff”. I didn’t know what her standards were when we moved in. If I had known, we certainly would not have taken that house.

But, at least at first, I really tried to do things more to her standards. I dutifully cleaned the white plastic panels on the new doors she’d had installed. They were exposed to the elements and doomed to become discolored at some point, but I knew she wanted them to look nice, even if no one would care about that but her. She asked me more than once to clean them off regularly, so I did. I would attempt to clean the windows in the living room, so she wouldn’t freak out about the nose prints left by our dogs. I would try to be presentable, at least when I knew she was coming. And I tried to be cordial. For a long time, I was as pleasant as I could be, even when she inconvenienced me by showing up randomly or was intrusive.

One day, she reached the end of my patience by screaming at me in the living room about an awning that had collapsed on my watch. It was seventeen years old. I had pointed it out to her that the thing was leaning. She had her husband “fix” it. It appeared to be repaired, so I used it a few times after he did the work. On one very hot day, a gust of wind blew, and the awning collapsed.

Fortunately, I was not sitting under the awning when it collapsed, although ex landlady claimed that the fact that I wasn’t sitting under it was a sign of my “gross negligence”. She immediately blamed me, and yelled at me in my own home, not just for the awning that she failed to have properly repaired, but also for the fact that one of the electric rolladens was not properly installed and would not go down. She claimed it wasn’t working properly because I didn’t use it often enough, even though a repairman later said it wasn’t installed correctly. She had no thought at all for the fact that I could have been seriously injured or perhaps even killed if that seventeen year old awning that she hadn’t fixed properly had fallen on my head. Instead, I was the one who was “negligent” for using a supposedly “fixed” awning on a hot day and not being able to predict the wind.

It may be hard to believe, but I did feel bad that the awning fell on my watch. I knew money was an object for the landlords. I was sensitive to their not wanting to spend money. I didn’t object when she had her husband fix it instead of a real repairman. But I was not willing to accept the claim of negligence when I used something that was part of the house on a hot day, as she and her husband had actually said was appropriate use. All I did was unroll it. I wasn’t hanging on it or playing on it or anything like that. And sorry, I can’t predict the wind. I don’t think I’m “negligent” for not being under the awning when it suddenly fell. I think I am damned LUCKY. So is she.

After that exchange, Bill asked her not to speak to me about her concerns. That seemed to piss her off even more, since apparently I made for a convenient scapegoat for her frustrations. But she did leave me alone, for the most part, probably because she could tell I was frighteningly close to losing my shit the last time she yelled at me. I think she could also tell that I could easily match her in intensity and nastiness, if I was really pushed to go there.

It may seem hard to believe, but I genuinely felt terrible when things went wrong. By the time I left that house, I really felt pretty awful. She had done a good job making me feel “guilty” about how “terrible” I am. Even though I was LIVID by the way she treated Bill and me– especially me— the truth is, her comments made me feel bad about myself. I wondered if she was right that I’m a shitty housekeeper and a lazy, worthless person. She didn’t actually say those words to me, and yet that was the message I got– repeatedly.

It took weeks in our current home before I finally felt comfortable. I was anxious for so long, expecting her to come over and complain about some aspect of my housekeeping that displeased her. I knew that she was not our landlady anymore, but yet I expected our new landlord to be like her. I dreaded talking to him because of her. She did real psychological damage to both of us. She falsely accused us of theft and trashing her house, and when Bill asked for a fair accounting of why she was keeping most of our security deposit, she became hostile, nasty, and really laid on the shame and guilt in an attempt to get him to back off. It was absolutely infuriating, especially since Bill is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and is generous, respectful, and fair to a fault!

I think of so many people whose homes I’ve been in that were genuinely dirty and cluttered far worse than mine ever was. I think of all of the people I know who would have blown up with profanities at ex landlady the first time she yelled at them. I think of the people who would think nothing of paying rent late, or not at all. And then I think to myself… “I’m the worst tenant she’s ever had? Really? She’s been lucky.” Karma will fix that.

What she was doing was egregious bullshit… and I can’t help but wonder if we’d been less “nice” and “kind” about her blatantly disrespectful behavior, maybe she might not have so blatantly tried to take advantage of Bill’s good nature. Like, maybe if I’d given into the instinct to yell back at her, she might have not been so totally horrible to us, and we might not have had to sue her. Even after a settlement was reached, it still took months and a nastygram from our lawyer before she finally gave us our money.

But we were both trained to accept abuse. I have a much lower threshold than Bill does, but I still have the capacity to overlook bad behavior in the interest of keeping the peace. Maybe that’s not a good policy. I have already told Bill that I don’t ever intend to tolerate that kind of living situation again, but the truth is, sometimes you kind of have to… a lot depends on money, doesn’t it?

Now I am mostly recovered from that experience, aside from some residual anger. There are scars, of course, and I think it’s a pretty fair bet that I won’t be forgetting her. But I realize now that her apparently very negative opinions of me don’t necessarily reflect reality, nor do they apply to how others see me. No matter what, I have basic worth, just as everyone does. Even the worst people in the world usually have at least one person in their lives who love them on some level. And that is as true for me as it is for most people.

There have been other instances in my life where I have left a situation feeling awful about myself. I recently wrote about ghosts of traumatic Christmases past. One of the reasons I swore them off is because so many of them left me feeling horrible. I had to detox from the toxicity for days or weeks, ruminating about the dramas that would erupt among so-called loved ones. All I ever wanted was to live in peace, on my own terms, and as my authentic self. If other people can’t stand me, so be it. But so many people want to change their friends and loved ones, not recognizing their worth and uniqueness. If one has a conscience or any sense of shame, this can be devastating to one’s self-esteem and self-image.

I think this is a skill that is essential for living, learning to accept oneself for being a unique person and having basic worth. But, as we’ve seen, especially since the pandemic started, people are really BIG on judging and shaming others. Judging and shaming people, lecturing them, and not trying to empathize with them is a great way to alienate them and cause them to be even more entrenched in their beliefs. A lot of the judging behavior comes from frustration, of course. In terms of the pandemic, we’re all tired of hearing about sickness and death, being subjected to restrictions, rules, and talk of overwhelmed healthcare facilities. Many people are truly frightened, especially those who have lost loved ones and friends to the sickness.

I’ve read so many comments from people who say that they have no more empathy. They have no more patience. And when someone dies of COVID, especially if they were unvaccinated, some of them even LAUGH about it. I guess I can understand why people feel like that and act that way, but I don’t think that attitude does anything to change behavior or inspire cooperation. People tend to focus more on their egos and injured pride than the frustration and despair that drives some of the more judgmental behaviors. I’m as guilty of that as a lot of people are, although I try not to be that way. I just don’t think it helps. We’re all human, though…

I’m even sure that, on some level, our former landlady believed the lies she told herself. Or maybe, from her perspective, we really are filthy, dishonest, thieving, unhygienic people who don’t respect other people’s property. But no one else has ever said that about us. And our current landlord has cheerfully told us we’re welcome to stay as long as we want. That’s a nice vote of confidence.

I felt good yesterday when I fixed the faucet in the downstairs bathroom all by myself. It was easy to do. But as I was doing the work– descaling the tap with white vinegar and removing the calcium buildup that had blocked the spigot– I couldn’t help but think of the way the landlady made comments that were intended to make me feel small, negligent, and incompetent. I know that they weren’t a reflection of reality. It was gaslighting, intended to make me more inclined to accept her abuse and her assessment of me and my “shortcomings”.

Fortunately, I’ve already been through therapy. 😉 It’s hard to believe we paid over $2000 a month for that treatment from the former landlady. We should have “fired” her after the first year. Life is short. Lesson learned.

Quote Investigator says that Twitter user debihope apparently constructed this popular quote, which has been falsely attributed to Sigmund Freud and William Gibson, among others.

So… if you take anything valuable from today’s post, I hope it includes the idea that other people’s apparent negative views of you might not be rooted in reality. In fact, they may be their attempts to train you to accept their abuse. Take their comments and opinions for what they’re worth… definitely with a grain of salt. Do what you can to protect yourself, and protect your sense of self-worth. After all, as Janis Ian shares in an unattributed quote, “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…” Wise words indeed. Don’t forget them.

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