complaints, mental health, Military, modern problems

Melting down over mission first…

There was a time in my life when I was like Velveeta, melting down at the slightest sign of heat. I’ve always been sensitive, but for the first thirty years of my life, I would get easily overwhelmed. I had problems with anxiety and would hyperventilate in panic attacks. Sometimes the attacks would happen in very embarrassing places. One time, I melted down in front of my boss, who was a nurse. Oddly enough, she thought I needed a trash can because she assumed I was going to vomit. I managed to croak out that I needed a bag to breathe into. She gave me one and I soon calmed down enough to talk to her. You’d think a nurse would know what to do for hyperventilation.

My panic attacks used to happen fairly frequently. For a long time, I didn’t know how to stop them. I’d get so upset that I’d find myself tingly with carbon dioxide overload, panting in a fight or flight reaction to whatever had me so bothered. Many times, it was fighting with my parents or some other authority figure that would get me in those states. For awhile, I even had Klonopin prescribed to me. It did nothing for me. I’m surprised people get hooked on it, to be very honest.

I don’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. It’s been many years. I have had a few meltdowns, but they aren’t like they used to be. Now, I get angry rather than panicky. Sometimes I cry a little bit, but I can’t even muster tears much anymore. In some ways, I’m glad crying is harder for me now. I was embarrassed by public crying jags more times than I’d like to remember. Some people legitimately thought I was crazy when I was younger. Others wondered if I was bipolar (I’m not).

Then there are times when I miss having a good cry. Crying can be very cathartic. I remember the rush of endorphins that would inevitably come after I released my emotions all over the place. I kind of miss being able to do that. Now, when I cry, it doesn’t last long and isn’t very intense. I’m sure some of it has to do with getting older and hormonal changes that come with that. Some of it is because I just don’t physically feel like I used to. I haven’t felt the way I felt as a young person since I started taking antidepressants in 1998.

Good plan.

I took psych meds for about five and a half years– first Prozac, then Wellbutrin, which turned out to be a much better fit for me than Prozac was. I also took Topamax, which is a mood stabilizer/migraine med/anti seizure med. My doctor prescribed it for me because he wanted me to lose weight. It did effectively kill my appetite and made drinking anything carbonated unpleasant. I didn’t lose weight, either, which disappointed my psychiatrist, who seemed to think my weight was the root of my problems. Bill didn’t like me on Topamax, so I got off of it. Beer began being fun to drink again. Looking back on it, I think the shrink was irresponsible to give me Topamax for that purpose. He prescribed it not because I had medical issues due to being overweight, but because I think he preferred thinner women himself and figured that being thinner would make me happier.

I had a slight meltdown last night. It turned out Bill couldn’t leave early and, in fact, probably won’t be home until late. I got pissed off when he sent me an email telling me about his issues getting home. It’s not because he’s not getting off early. It’s because, once again, he got my hopes up and dashed them. It’s not the first time he’s done it and this time, I’m having a particularly hard time dealing with life.

All of the other times he’s had long TDYs, we haven’t been in a pandemic situation. We’ve managed to have some fun somehow… going to a restaurant, taking a short trip, or doing something social. This time, we’ve been locked down for months. Seriously, Germany has been locked down in some way since November 2020. I haven’t been to downtown Wiesbaden in many months. By now, it’s probably been a year. I haven’t had a dental cleaning since May 2019. We did manage to take a trip last summer, but after we picked up Noyzi in early October, we were pretty much relegated to the neighborhood.

Germany was going to open a little bit this month, but the rising COVID-19 infections forced the lockdowns to extend. The AstraZeneca vaccine rollout has stalled, thanks to stories about a few people having rare blood clot reactions to it. We can be vaccinated on post, but we’re low on the priority scale. So while the United States is getting people the shot and things are becoming slightly more open over there, here it’s still isolated and weird. And it pissed me off that my husband had to go on a business trip for three solid weeks, even though travel is highly discouraged right now. I’ve been sitting at home alone, faithfully awaiting his invitation to chat, which always came when I was in the middle of watching a movie.

I don’t know what happened, but when he said he was going to be stuck there until late, I just got pissed. Because, what it comes down to is his job coming before me. I understand that his job will always come first. It’s that military “mission first” mentality that every recruit is indoctrinated with when they join one of the services. Intellectually, I get it. But after three weeks of boredom and loneliness and having my hopes raised, I was not very happy to hear that they were going to be dashed. I got so pissed that I even told Bill I didn’t want to chat with him and didn’t care when he comes home.

I probably should have kept my disappointment to myself. I should have found something to pour myself into, like I usually do. But I wrote on Facebook that I need a boyfriend. I was half kidding. Most people laughed. One person, who also spends a lot of time alone due to her husband’s work, opted to give me advice. To be honest, it kind of pissed me off that this person offered advice. Sometimes, people just want to vent. They aren’t looking for anyone to help them solve their problems. They just want to be heard and validated.

I understand that advice giving usually comes from a place of wanting to help, but she knows I’ve been a military wife for 18 years. This ain’t my first rodeo with being alone. Moreover, I’m not a kid. I don’t need someone to tell me to go out and “join” things. But even if I wanted to join things, I can’t right now. First off, it’s Germany, and not everyone speaks English. But even if I spoke perfect German and they spoke perfect English, the culture is different… and we are not allowed to congregate, anyway. It’s literally against the law right now. And, to be honest, I don’t necessarily want to hang out on post, either. For many reasons, I don’t fit in with most of the military wives. There are some exceptions, of course. Things are closed on post, too, but even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t want to hang out there.

I don’t need to be told to do something creative. I do that already. That’s why we have five guitars in our house when a year ago, we had none. That’s why I write a blog. I would write fiction, but a certain stalker let me know that she doesn’t appreciate my efforts or respect my privacy. So I’ve kind of lost the desire to write fiction for now, because someone might assume that I’ve written about them or get the wrong idea… or offer an uninvited critique. Even if I wrote it offline, I’ve just lost the urge.

I was just feeling low and wanted to express it. I still knew in my heart, someone would try to fix things and offer advice. And I would be put in the position of being a bitch and stating that I don’t want or particularly need any advice. I just want a virtual hug or something… hell, I don’t know what I want. I guess I just feel like I’ve wasted my life. I spend so much time waiting around for Bill. It’s not even so much that I want to join other people. I actually find a lot of people irritating… and they find me irritating and weird. I don’t want to get dressed and get in the car and go somewhere. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I chose this life. I know I did. I love Bill with all my heart, but I often feel like a loser. Just once, I’d like for him to have to wait at home alone for me. Or really, I don’t want either of us to have to wait at home alone. I just feel like I’ve already put in my time with this “mission first” lifestyle. For once, it would be nice not to have to put the mission first.

A few weeks ago, I fell and tore up both of my knees. Fortunately, I wasn’t badly hurt. My pride was injured and I had bruised, swollen, oozing, itchy knees for two solid weeks. The knees are mostly healed now, save for a bit of scarring and almost healed scabs. It occurred to me that I could have been badly hurt and no one would be any the wiser. When he goes on these trips, I might as well be single. I survived being alone as a single person just fine. I expected to be alone and coped with it. As a married person, it’s harder to cope. Especially when I can’t go hang out in a bar when things get too solitary.

When we lived in Stuttgart, it wasn’t as bad. I knew more people there. Of course, I much prefer where we are now to where we were then, but I don’t know Wiesbaden as well as I do the Stuttgart area. The past year hasn’t allowed for much exploration. I’m not that close to my family, which is probably a blessing, since they’re all thousands of miles away. I have the dogs and they are great company. But they’re dogs… and they require care more than anything else. I did get a kick out of Noyzi this morning, who asked for butt rubs and head scratches and expressed appreciation by rolling on his back with his legs in the air and smiling goofily at me. I wish I’d been able to get a picture. It was adorable.

I miss Zane a lot. He was high maintenance and worried me with his health issues. However, he loved to snuggle with me in bed and would burrow under the covers and curl up next to me. Arran only snuggles with me occasionally. He likes to snuggle, but not like Zane did. He’s more Bill’s dog than mine. And Noyzi isn’t going to snuggle in bed as long as Arran is around, because Arran doesn’t like him.

I miss physical contact and conversation… and I feel like I just wait all the time for something to happen. And I don’t need someone in the United States, who doesn’t understand the reality of life as a childless foreigner during a pandemic, telling me what I should do. I mean, I know she meant well… but she’s got children and grandchildren and a job… and lots of friends. And she lives in the USA in a familiar place. I don’t think things are locked down there like they are here. But in the USA, you can expect that most people can speak your language. Here, I can’t make that assumption, even if it’s often true.

I think I also have PMS. My skin is a mess… and it’s about time for Aunt Flow to show up. Just in time for Bill to get home, too. Wouldn’t you know it?

I do feel somewhat better today. I woke up at 2:15am and couldn’t get back to sleep. By 4:45am, I was chatting with a former co-worker who lives in Washington State. We had a very entertaining chat, not about my problems. He didn’t offer advice or try to fix my issues. He just talked to me and we gossiped about the old days. It was fun, and it made me feel better. He even said he liked me the minute he met me because I’m “authentic”. He’s not the first person to tell me that. Say what you want about my personality… it’s definitely mine and it’s real, even if not everyone likes it. And he told me he likes me the way I am, which was really nice. I probably should have chatted with him last night, but I ended up chatting with Bill, who apologized profusely.

I told Bill that I get it. The job will always come first. He has a “mission first” mentality that he won’t let go of, and frankly, that’s what makes him so employable. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if it would be a good thing for him to change jobs for my sake. I wasn’t asking him to do that. I simply don’t like it when someone raises my hopes and then disappoints me. It’s happened too many times. If he had just let me think he’d be home late tonight and never mentioned leaving early, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so irritated.

Also… people are finding that post I wrote about Adam and Darla and, apparently, want to correct my opinions on that. And those who are regular readers probably know how I feel about people who want to correct other people’s opinions. Right or wrong, I don’t like it when people aren’t allowed to express themselves unmolested and uncensored. Must be part of my “authenticity”. On the other hand, at least they care enough to comment.

Anyway… I will probably be happier later. If I know Bill, he’ll make it up to me. Or maybe he’ll disappoint me again. Either way, I probably won’t melt down, because I expect I’ll finally be ragging. I think I’ll make this morning a vocal morning. It’ll make me feel better.

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celebrities, memories, mental health, rants, stupid people

Fat jokes really aren’t funny… and neither are food phobias.

I know I’ve been writing a lot about eating disorders lately. I wasn’t actually planning to write about them again today. However, as today happens to be the first day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I think it’s kind of appropriate to write one more post. If you’re surprised there’s an actual week in February devoted to fighting eating disorders, you shouldn’t be. This has been an annual event for at least twenty years. I remember being a temp at the College of William & Mary back in 1998 and seeing posters for this week plastered all over the Blow Building, which was where I was working in the office of admissions.

Yes, this is a thing.

Lately I’ve been passing the time watching old episodes of the 80s era family friendly comedy, Growing Pains, and I’ve finally reached the fourth season. Season four is when Tracey Gold, who played middle child, perfect Carol Seaver, started to become noticeably thinner. We didn’t know, at the time, that she was developing anorexia nervosa and would eventually drop her weight from 133 pounds to about 80 pounds.

Yesterday, I happened to see the episode “Homecoming Queen”, which originally aired on November 23, 1988. I was sixteen years old then, and pretty obsessed with dieting myself. I’m not sure I was still a Growing Pains fan at that point, though. The show had kind of jumped the shark by then, and I had a lot of other things going on at the time. It’s interesting to watch it now. I’m finding that it was a pretty decently written show, even in season four, which was the season in which the Seavers had their change of life baby, Chrissy. Anyone who grew up in the era of sitcoms knows that new babies or adopted kids always end up on the show as the original kids get too old.

The plot for “Homecoming Queen” is centered around Carol, who is nominated by her peers to be in the Homecoming court. Carol is shocked that they would think she’s pretty and popular enough to be queen. She sees herself as fat and ugly, and unworthy to be Homecoming Queen. She even considers refusing the honor, but ends up running when her competition erroneously assume she’s trying to sway people by being falsely humble.

About ten minutes into the episode, we see Carol having a terrible nightmare. Surrounded by her beautiful competition for Homecoming Queen, Carol is dressed in unflattering overalls that make her look huge. She’s wearing glasses and her hair is short and frumpy. As the principal and her peers laugh at her, Carol falls through the stage because she’s so fat. Then, her brother Mike, who constantly rides her about her weight, comes out and humiliates her, saying she’s “merely going through a stage…” as everyone laughs at her literally “going through a stage” because she’s so fat.

Tracey Gold has said that the fat jokes on Growing Pains were one reason why she became so preoccupied with her weight. As I watch that show now, I can see how the fat jokes really ramped up a lot in seasons 3 and 4, which was ironically when Tracey Gold was getting noticeably thinner. I don’t notice them as much in the earlier seasons, when she was legitimately heavier and her character was presented as nerdier and plainer. She gained some weight in 1988, but then lost about twenty five pounds with the help of a doctor, who put her on a 500 calorie a day diet.

Tracey Gold has also said that she had been diagnosed with the early symptoms of anorexia nervosa when she was eleven years old. I remember reading about that when I was in the eighth grade, years before she truly got sick with an eating disorder, around 1990 or so.

It seems especially tone deaf and wrong that the writers on Growing Pains saddled the Carol Seaver character with so many jokes about her weight, especially since she clearly wasn’t overweight at all. They also included “ugly” jokes, but I don’t notice as many of those as “fat” jokes. In fact, on the “Homecoming Queen” episode, Alan Thicke, who plays psychiatrist dad Jason Seaver, is shown offering Carol a piece of cake. When she says something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m not fat enough for you?” Jason starts to say, “Sure you are…” but then stops himself.

Tracey Gold talks about how she struggled with eating pizza in the last scene.

By 1991, the producers of Growing Pains, who had originally urged Gold to lose weight, suspended her from the show because she had become so skeletal. They required her to get treatment for her eating disorder before they would allow her back on the show. She did appear for the series finale in 1992, but she hadn’t recovered by then. She says that in one of the last scenes, the family is shown eating pizza and it’s very obvious that she was faking it. She says she’d forgotten how to hold a piece of pizza. I’m sure it was very traumatizing for her. Kind of like a phobia.

Which leads me to an opportunity for a nice segue… I’ve mentioned this before, but I think I wrote about it on my original Blogspot version of this blog. I happen to have a food related phobia myself– mycophobia, which is an irrational fear of mushrooms. I am a lot better than I used to be. When I was a small child, we lived in England, and there were huge toadstools in our backyard. I remember my parents telling me to never touch the mushrooms. I didn’t like mushrooms to start with, but somehow the directive not to touch them really hit home in an extreme way. I got to the point at which I would freeze and scream bloody murder if I simply saw one in the yard.

I remember my dad was pretty exasperated by my adverse reaction to mushrooms. He was kind of an old school disciplinarian and used to try to force me to eat everything on my plate. I actually have aversions to a number of foods, like unmelted cheese and most dairy products. I think this is because when I was very young, I was allergic to cow’s milk and it would make me vomit. To this day, I don’t drink plain milk, and aside from ice cream and butter, don’t eat most dairy products unless they’re in something. Like, I can’t bring myself to taste cream by itself, although I like it in coffee, and I would never eat a piece of cold cheese that hasn’t been melted. The flavor and the texture completely gross me out. Forget about any kinds of strong cheeses. I will vomit.

A couple of weeks ago, Bill made nachos with melted cheddar cheese. I can normally eat melted cheese, even if it’s cooled off. But on that day, the cheddar had a flavor that overwhelmed and ultimately disgusted me. I ended up throwing up. I do like some mild cheeses in things. I love dishes like lasagna and mac and cheese, and I like pizza, although as a child, it took many years before I would eat it. I can even eat cold pizza with cheese on it. I’ve read that some people can’t eat melted cheese, but they can eat it unmelted. Humans are so strange.

Anyway, yesterday, The New York Times ran an article about mushrooms, complete with a photo. I generally hide photos of mushrooms because even though I don’t run screaming from the room anymore, the sight of them makes me cringe and shudder. I imagine my reaction to mushrooms is much like Tracey Gold’s stated aversion to a lump of butter, back when she was very sick with anorexia.

I tried to hide the article, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to. I mentioned it on Facebook, and everybody laughed, which is rather predictable behavior among so-called friends. Now… I can understand why people laugh at this. I have a phobia, and many people think phobias are funny, especially when they are regarding something as ridiculous as mushrooms. So I don’t really blame people for laughing at my trauma. They’re ignorant and insensitive for doing so, but I can understand why they laugh. It’s probably my fault for mentioning it, although I mention it because it’s one of the many things that makes me unique. However, I did point out that people were laughing, but I was being very candid.

The photos on the New York Times piece weren’t too bad. The fungus looked more like sea anemones than mushrooms (to be honest, just typing that word skeeves me out a bit). I really get creeped out by pictures of mushrooms in food or toadstools (again– yecch). Like, they make me very uncomfortable. If sometime tried to make me eat one, I would probably have a full blown anxiety attack. Indeed, I did have them when I was a child and my control freak father would try to force me to eat things I didn’t want. Years later, he would call me a “hog” and shame me for being too fat.

A few years ago, I remember trying to eat a dish that had mushrooms in it at a fancy restaurant and I just couldn’t do it. They had to bring me a version without ‘shrooms. And this issue has come up at restaurants and when I’ve been invited to people’s houses for a meal. It’s always embarrassing to try to explain why I can’t eat mushrooms. Many times, people laugh out loud. I know it’s absurd.

You’d think I could tell people in the restaurant that I have an allergy. However, having worked in restaurants myself, I know that that’s also problematic, because the staff will then worry about my having a reaction. I don’t have an allergy, so I don’t want them to freak out about potentially causing anaphylactic shock or something. I won’t have a physical reaction if something I eat comes into contact with mushrooms. But if I can see, smell, or taste them in my food, the meal will be ruined, and I might end up vomiting or worse. I don’t mind if Bill eats them at a restaurant or something, although out of kindness to me, he doesn’t buy them at the grocery store and doesn’t cook with them at home. He’s also been known to switch plates with me if I order something that has them and his dish doesn’t. We have had situations, though, where both dishes have had mushrooms and I’ve had to get something else.

I once thought about becoming a chef, but ultimately decided not to when I realized that my phobia would probably be very problematic. In fact, sometimes my phobia has even led to embarrassing altercations. Below is a repost of a piece I wrote in 2017 for my original blog on Blogspot. I don’t expect anyone to read it– extra credit if you do– but it kind of illustrates how this issue sometimes pops up in my life. Incidentally, the obnoxious guy who laughed at me because of my phobia was recently fired for undisclosed reasons, and they never did spend all of the money that was left for their “party” at the Biergarten…

Phobias are not funny… (originally posted July 20, 2017)

Have you ever met someone with whom you immediately clash?  I think that happened to me last night.  Despite my rather funny personality, I don’t actually like parties very much.  I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes, especially when I’m in the company of certain types of people.  Not everyone can take my sense of humor and I don’t enjoy offending people.  Sometimes I do, despite my best efforts.

Last year, the guy who hired Bill moved on to a new job in Hawaii.  He left behind a huge collection of euro coins, which he donated to everyone he worked with.  The coins were all counted and it came to the euro equivalent of about $800, which was used to pay for last night’s gathering at a biergarten (and, in fact, not all of the money was spent).  It was a farewell dinner of sorts, since the company Bill has been working for lost its contract and many of the people who have been working with Bill are moving on to new jobs and/or locations. 

We arrived too late to sit at the table that was already started, so we sat at a second table that had been reserved.  Soon we were joined by another couple, the male half of whom will continue to be Bill’s co-worker because they were both hired by the new company that is taking over.  The first thing that happened was the guy came up, looked at me, and said “Who do you belong to?”

I answered that I am Bill’s wife.  He then made some crack about my being the daughter of the other guy sitting across from me.  I’m not really sure what that was all about.  Bill had told me a bit about this guy being a bit obnoxious and full of himself, so I wasn’t that surprised at his comment.  This guy also referred to me as “Jen”, when I introduced myself as “Jenny”.  That also happens to be a pet peeve of mine, when someone takes it upon themselves to change my name, especially when they’ve just met me.

I noticed his wife sitting in the corner with their son, whom I had met before.  He is a very bright kid for his age and already speaks German pretty well.  I could tell he is the apple of his mother’s eye.  She was doting on him quite a bit. 

As the evening wore on, Bill and I found ourselves talking about different subjects, including one of the Space A “hops” we took a few years ago.  Bill told everyone about how we landed in Georgia after an overseas flight from Germany.  We were really jet lagged.  He’d gone out to get us some dinner.  I would have been just fine with something from the nearby Wendy’s, but Bill decided to go the extra mile.  He noticed a restaurant across the street and ordered take out.  He brought back steaks, not realizing that they had been smothered with mushrooms.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you may already know that I do not eat mushrooms.  In fact, I have a phobia of them.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth. 

So anyway, I opened the carton he handed me and was immediately confronted by this piece of meat covered with ‘shrooms.  They were totally grossing me out.  I was pretty exasperated because I was exhausted and hungry.  All I’d really wanted was a sandwich, and if Bill had just gotten something at Wendy’s, I could have had a sandwich and gone to bed.  Instead, I was sitting there with what could have been a nice dinner that was rendered completely unappetizing due to the fungus.  Aside from that, I was annoyed that a restaurant would put mushrooms on a steak without advertising that they were going to do so. 

Bill was telling this story and people were wondering why I didn’t just scrape off the mushrooms.  And that’s where the whole mushroom phobia story came in.  Phobias are, by nature, ridiculous, irrational, and perhaps even funny.  However, if you actually have a phobia, it’s not really a laughing matter. 

My whole life, I’ve been laughed at for having a fear of mushrooms.  When I was a kid, family members even chased me with them and yukked it up when I reacted with fear.  I can mostly laugh about it now… and the phobia is not nearly as bad as it used to be.  For instance, I no longer scream when I am confronted with mushrooms.  I don’t like having them on my plate and I refuse to touch them or eat them, but I won’t freak out or anything.  I still have a phobia, though. 

I used to think I was the only person with this problem, but then I wrote an article about mycophobia (fear of mushrooms).  In my article, I even referenced an episode of The Montel Williams Show that was about phobias.  There was a woman on that show who was afraid of mushrooms and reacted the very same way I did when I was much younger.  She actually saw my article and sent me an email.  I got so many comments and emails from people who have unusual phobias and happened to read my article.  In fact, a quick YouTube search turns up a number of videos about mycophobia (mushroom phobia).

I was trying to explain this last night.  I will admit, a phobia of something weird like mushrooms sounds hilarious if you don’t make an effort to understand what having a phobia is like.  I have been in some embarrassing and annoying situations due to this problem, but I can see why some people think it’s funny. 

Of course, Bill’s co-worker thought my mushroom phobia was totally hilarious.  He was cracking jokes and hysterically laughing at me, as was his son.  I was trying to explain the origins of the phobia, which started when I was a little kid, and he was just having a knee slapper of a time laughing.  I had been drinking beer, so I was feeling my oats.  And I let loose with some really far out insults involving his testicles being covered with fungus.  I’m sure whatever I said was shocking and disgusting.  Sometimes, I have no filter, especially if I’ve been drinking.

I could tell the guy’s wife was horrified and it looked like she was trying to shield her son from the insults springing forth from me.  I wasn’t sure if she was horrified by my comments, her husband’s comments, or the whole scene in general.  But anyway, they made a hasty retreat.  I’m sure they think I’m an asshole, now.  On the other hand, I thought the guy was being an asshole for outwardly laughing at me and lacking empathy. 

Meh… I really think sometimes I should not go to these kinds of parties with Bill.  I’m sure a lot of his co-workers think I’m nuts.  On the plus side, we did talk to a really nice lady last night.  Too bad she and her husband (and their fabulous dog) will be leaving soon.  Also, I gave our waitress the stink eye because she told me that putting a wine bottle upside down in a galvanized bucket full of melted ice is “nasty”.  That sounded a bit like bullshit to me, but what do I know?  She was happy when we left, though, because she was tipped handsomely.

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complaints, disasters, mental health

What’s the point?

This morning, as Bill and I were waking up to another day of COVID-19 life, I read a couple of articles in The New York Times about the plight of today’s youth. The first article was about how the United States might hope to reopen schools soon and why it’s so necessary for the mental and emotional well-being of young people. The second was about the youth of Europe and how many of them are becoming despondent because of the toll the pandemic is taking on their budding lives. In both articles, mental health issues were cited as major reasons why young people are suffering so much right now.

Both articles hit home for me, even though COVID-19 was not on the radar when I was young. I remember my teens and twenties as an especially difficult time for me. I suffered significantly from anxiety and depression during those years, mainly because I wasn’t sure what my place in the world was. I didn’t have tons of friends or boyfriends, so those years weren’t especially fun for me in terms of a social life. I did have some fun, mind you, and compared to a lot of people, I was fairly privileged. But I wasn’t doing what most young people do when they’re young. I worried excessively about the future and dwelled a lot on the past. It all kind of came to a head when I was in my mid twenties. I had a crisis and felt compelled to seek psychiatric help. I remember wondering back then what the point of living was.

Remembering what I was like in those days and how anxious and hopeless I felt, even if I did appear to be resilient, I think about what it must be like for the young people of 2021. These young folks have been raised in very anxious times. For most of their youths, they’ve had to worry about violence in the form of school shootings and foreign and domestic terrorism. Today’s twenty year olds were born around the time of 9/11, which is when the world really seemed to change a lot. They grew up hearing about people being kidnapped and beheaded in faraway lands. Maybe some of them saw their parents go off to war, never to come home again. All the while, the cost of living kept rising.

From the very beginning of this COVID-19 crisis, I’ve had a soft spot for the young. This should be the time when they’re allowed to be free… to explore relationships, try new things, travel, make life altering decisions. They should be enjoying school, dating, learning to drive, starting their first jobs, taking field trips… But thanks to the pandemic, along with the chaos that comes from having incompetent and criminal world leaders like Donald Trump, those normal milestones are being curtailed or delayed for most of them.

In my day, if young people couldn’t find a job in a field they enjoyed, there was always restaurant work. Waiting tables is a great skill– one that’s usually portable and plentiful. But thanks to COVID-19, a lot of restaurant and retail work has been sharply curtailed. And while some young people might be glad for the extra free time, bills still have to be paid. Some of these young folks are halfway to earning college degrees that they may or may not ever get to use or be able to pay for. In the case of the article about the European young people, a lot of them were saying they didn’t see the point of continuing their educations, given the lack of jobs. Many of them report feeling suicidal, and those who have mental health issues are having worse problems. Some of those who were mentally healthy are developing depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, and mental health experts are hard pressed to be able to help them. Inpatient beds in psychiatric wards in European hospitals are full.

I think about athletes who have been preparing years for the 2020 Olympics. The Summer Games were postponed until this year, and now it looks like they could even be canceled. I think about someone like Simone Biles, who is a great gymnast who’s fighting the same enemy of all great gymnasts… time. She’s in her early 20s. This is when a lot of female gymnasts retire because their bodies don’t cooperate as well as they used to. She was hoping for another Olympic bid, but may not get her chance if the pandemic doesn’t come under control soon.

I think about young ballerinas who have trained their whole lives to be great dancers. But the pandemic forced live entertainment to shut down. What do they do now? The same goes for budding musicians and actors who have spent their whole young lives preparing for a reality that, at least for now, has radically changed. The virus has made it a lot harder for young people to do things like date. This morning, I read a truly nauseating comment on an article about how caution has become “sexy”. Someone said they think masks are “turn ons” because it means a person who is wearing one isn’t a sociopath and cares about others. But face masks cover up the face, which takes away a significant conduit for non-verbal communication. The masks are further isolating and a visible reminder of how fucked up things are today.

For the record, I don’t agree with the idea that a person who doesn’t want to wear a mask might be a sociopath. Mask wearing isn’t normal. It’s not comfortable or convenient. It makes perfect sense to me that many people don’t want to wear them. Not wanting to wear masks doesn’t necessarily make people sociopathic, and while the articles about this phenomenon go into more detail as to why some vehement anti-maskers may have sociopathic tendencies, a lot of people never read beyond the headlines. While I can see the idea that a person who flat out refuses to wear a mask could be considered a sociopath if he or she has other sociopathic traits, I don’t think that’s always true. I think it’s a mistake to promote the idea that anyone who wears a mask is “caring”. That’s also not necessarily true. It could be that they simply don’t want to be fined or harassed. Likewise, I don’t think that all anti-maskers are necessarily people who are uncaring and sociopathic. Some of them are, but not all.

Then there are the mean spirited comments by people who feel the need to shame and lecture young people who are complaining about these unusual and unpleasant conditions we’re living in right now. Frankly, I think anyone who can’t see how difficult this situation is for the young should have an empathy check. It’s true that generations before us have had to deal with terrible adversities. And they dealt with the adversities without the benefit of the technology that we have today. But times were different in those days. The people of the past had some things that we don’t have. I don’t think, for instance, that there was as much pressure to perform or achieve. A person could get by with less. People had closer connections with each other, and there was more of an emphasis on family.

When you’ve grown up in a hyperactive society like ours, where both parents work just to keep the lights on and you’ve been taught since birth that you have to achieve to get into college or find a job– and then all of that is taken away because of a virus– it can be very difficult to cope. It can make anyone wonder what the point is. Especially when, in those other times of adversity, people could literally lean on each other for support. Now, they have to do it on a Zoom call because being in close contact with others is a no no. Humans were meant to touch each other. It’s a need that most of us have. But right now, it’s forbidden, and that’s causing people some real angst.

I understand it, although I wasn’t living in pandemic conditions when I was in my 20s. I felt like I was trying to do so much to make it in the world. I made some good choices that led me to where I am, but I was also very lucky. I have been feeling kind of depressed and hopeless lately, but I also realize that I’m lucky to be dealing with this now, instead of back then… I would have absolutely HATED being locked down with my parents. And even given the fact that I was pretty reclusive when I was single and I relied on my jobs for human interaction, I think I would have HATED dealing with lockdown in my 20s. I was always worried about making ends meet in those days. I think it would be even harder now.

Count me among those who feel great compassion for the young. I think they should get more priority in the vaccination drive. And I am one of those who isn’t going to tell them to “suck it up and drive on”. I don’t think that’s a particularly good or helpful comment in most situations. It often comes from a place of privilege and a lack of empathy for others. Dare I say it? The hyper anal, mask-wearing, middle-aged person who shames a young person for feeling sad and hopeless is probably more of a sociopath than they realize. Personally, I think we should make more of an effort to help the young get back into life. My husband’s daughter is a young mother of two. She and her husband need to be healthy because they have small children to support. The 21 year old college student should be given a chance to launch– to finish their education and get to work. Those of us who have already had a chance should be more mindful of how hard this is for the young.

Once again… I feel kind of grateful to be childless.

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healthcare, mental health, modern problems, psychology

What’s eating young women these days? Eating disorders and COVID-19…

This morning, I read a news story about how eating disorders are on the rise in the United Kingdom, especially among young women. Pediatricians in the United Kingdom are seeing a tremendous rise in the number of patients who are coping with the stresses of the novel coronavirus by engaging in harmful behaviors such as binging and purging, starving themselves, or exercising excessively.

Karen Street, a consultant pediatrician at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and an officer for child mental health, says, “Eating disorders are often related to a need for control — something many young people feel they have lost during the pandemic.” Eating disorders often occur in young women who are extremely accomplished and driven, engaged in extracurricular activities and earning high grades in school. Thanks to the pandemic and being forced to isolate, many of the activities that young people could be engaged in are now unavailable. Teenagers don’t always have the coping skills that older people have, which would allow them to find a more COVID-19 friendly passion. It’s also harder to see a health care provider face to face right now, as many of them are either focused on treating patients with COVID-19 or are not doing so many in person consultations because of the risk of spreading the disease.

I was interested in reading about this phenomenon. When I was much younger, I used to struggle with eating disorders myself. I think my issues were actually connected with depression, anxiety, and terrible lack of self-esteem and secret wish to exit this life. I never really saw anyone about treating them and eventually managed to outgrow my obsession with food, diet, and exercise. It took years, though, and most people had no idea of the extent of it and would not have taken me seriously even if I had tried to tell anyone. I certainly didn’t look like I had a problem with food or dieting. I think, in my case, I exchanged my problems with eating disorders with something else. My issues with food mostly seemed to stop once I started taking the right antidepressant.

I’ve often marveled at how a few years taking Wellbutrin permanently seems to have changed the way I used to feel all the time. Before I got treated for clinical depression, I often felt overwhelmed and out of control of my emotions. I would vacillate between being funny and gregarious and being very depressed. When I was much younger, people would often ask me, in all seriousness, if I was bipolar. I am not bipolar, but I did have a chemical imbalance for years. Wellbutrin seems to have permanently corrected it, though– that, and having Bill in my life has made a huge difference. He treats me with love and respect. I literally don’t feel the way I used to feel all the time. I feel much more balanced and in control, and with that balance and control, I stopped caring about dieting. I don’t need a lot of people in my life. I just need one person who cares. I have that in Bill. If I didn’t have him, maybe I would go back to the way I once was.

I’ve often thought about what life must be like for young people right now. I think if I were a teenager in the lockdown COVID-19 era, I’d be going crazy. I can remember being 13 years old and stuck at home with my parents because I was sick or there was a big snowstorm. The first day or two was great, but then I got bored and frustrated, and being with my parents was hard, because we didn’t really get along that well. My parents were always at home, because they ran their business from our house. So snow days were particularly difficult, because I had no escape, other than going to the barn where I kept my horse. It wasn’t always easy to get to the barn when there was snow. I usually rode my bike there. It’s hard to bike on snow packed pavement. I remember getting very cagey and depressed when I was out of school for several days due to snow. I would have absolutely hated the way things are now, even though I’m a fairly self-directed person and would have probably done fine with online school.

Being isolated from their peers, teachers, and health care providers, has increased the risks to mental health issues in teens. Young people in Britain are developing eating disorders and can’t get treatment because there are not enough beds in treatment facilities. Washington Post reporter, Miriam Berger, quoted a couple of pediatricians who have seen eating disorder cases rising. From her article:

Luci Etheridge, a pediatrician specializing in eating disorders at St. George’s Hospital in London, reported… a 250 percent increase in cases compared with 2019, with a particular spike in September. Previously, the center had been able to access referrals within a nationally mandated four-week window; now they have 30 children on the waiting list to be assessed.

And:

Jon Rabbs, a consultant pediatrician in Sussex, [claims] his eating disorder service usually saw 11 referrals a month. Since September, it has risen to around 100 monthly.

The increased time people are spending online is probably contributing to the problem. With fewer offline activities available, youngsters are focusing on apps that have to do with calorie counting and recording exercise. Some people will become hyper-obsessed with their diets and exercise because it may take their minds off of the horrors of COVID-19. Or they worry about getting fat because they’re supposed to quarantine or stay at home as much as possible. Or, for some, it could be that the dieting apps are even like video games, as in, “let’s see if I can beat my record for jumping jacks”. On and on it goes, as the sufferer focuses their obsessions on the disorder and being alone with it, instead of getting back to living normally someday.

The sad thing is, when the pandemic ends and lockdowns are lifted, the people who have developed eating disorders will likely still have those problems. The obsessive behaviors won’t go away simply because people will, once again, be allowed to live somewhat normally. Thanks to the lack of treatment facilities and far fewer in person health provider visits and/or attention from teachers, friends, and guidance counselors, the disorders will go unnoticed and untreated for much longer. Delaying the treatment may lead to physical devastation, particularly if the person also gets sick with COVID-19. And one of the main features of eating disorders is the desire to be left alone and isolated. The pandemic provides a perfect environment for that, making the situation especially difficult for those who are already in recovery. I would imagine it’s the same for recovering alcoholics or other addicts, who need regular support to help conquer their addictions.

We are also now in the holiday season, which is stressful and often centers around preparing food and eating it. Usually, we celebrate with each other during the holidays. This year, many people are alone, and a lot of them are facing uncertainty about their finances or career prospects… life itself, really, since we don’t yet know when it will be safe to live in a more normal way. I imagine a lot of teens are hearing their parents worrying about surviving the pandemic, which adds to stress levels. Couple that with adolescents’ inability to do “normal” teenage things. Even dating someone would be difficult right now, which is another rite of passage that mostly affects adolescents. It really is no wonder that a certain type of young person– mostly females, but also males– is engaging in eating disordered behaviors. After all, the one thing most people can control is what they put into their bodies– even if they can’t control a novel virus that is ravaging populations around the world.

Sadly, a lot of people won’t take this issue seriously. As is my habit, I took a look at the comments about this article. At this writing, no one has left any comments on the Washington Post’s article itself. However, many dimwits have descended upon the Washington Post’s Facebook page to leave their ignorant and ill considered thoughts. Quite a few people hadn’t read the article and were spewing the usual crap about “covidiots”, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rise in eating disorders. Another insensitive male commenter kept making tasteless jokes about cannibalism– again, this has NOTHING to do with the topic. More than a couple brought up U.S. politics, which again, have nothing to do with the rise of eating disorders among British teens. And then there are the people who blame the media, claiming the media is making the pandemic out to be much worse than it is and is causing the depression and anxiety that can lead to the development of eating disorders.

Having suffered with eating disordered behaviors myself when I was young, this is not something I would ever wish on anyone. It might be funny to make jokes about eating disorders, something that a lot of people don’t understand at all, and don’t even TRY to understand– but to the people who have them, they are hell on earth. While in my case, my issues were mostly in my head and undetected by the people who cared about me, I would not want to be a parent having to deal with a child truly suffering from an eating disorder during the pandemic. It’s hard enough to help them when things are normal. Imagine trying to get help for your child when you can’t even get them in to see a doctor in person and, even when you can, there are no treatment facilities with available beds. Given the damage that eating disorders can do to one’s health, I would imagine that the risk of becoming severely debilitated or dying from COVID-19 would be much graver.

When it comes down to it, eating disorders are a very damaging coping mechanism, not unlike other addictive behaviors like alcoholism or drug abuse. People are stressed right now, and some young people are turning to destructive habits in order to cope with the anxiety and depression associated with the global pandemic. A lot of people who would not have otherwise gone down the dark road of an eating disorder are finding themselves on that path today. If I were a parent, I think I would be concerned… and it would be just one more thing to worry about. I don’t envy today’s parents at all.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, modern problems, musings

This blog SUCKS.

Years ago, I used to listen to a lot of comedian George Carlin’s old comedy albums on cassette tapes. I can’t remember exactly where I bought them. I think I might have bought the first one at Ames, a discount department store that had an outlet near my home in Gloucester, Virginia. I remember I paid about $7 for it, and thought that was a lot of money. I kept buying George’s albums, though, because he was a genius, and because I related so much to his routines.

As he got older, I liked Carlin’s comedy somewhat less. He often seemed angry and disgruntled. His humor seemed fueled more by dysthymia than goofy observations, and the really bitter routines he was doing, say circa 2006 or so, just weren’t appealing to me. I would feel depressed after listening to them. I do remember liking the very last album he did. On that one, he seemed kind of like a funny grandpa. But I specifically remember disliking his album, Life Is Worth Losing. It just seemed very negative. I wondered if George was feeling alright, but I didn’t feel compelled to criticize him for his material. Some people liked it a lot. I just wasn’t one of them at that time.

Wow… this is weirdly relevant today. I’m glad George missed out on COVID-19 and Trump as president.

One thing I have noticed about a lot of “funny or entertaining people” is that under the surface, they often suffer from depression and anxiety. They have learned to be funny, using humor to mask how they really feel. A lot of comedians suffer from alcoholism, addiction, and other mental health problems. They make sharp and witty observations about the world that make other people laugh. But underneath that humor often lurks someone who also badly needs a laugh. Sometimes that need comes out in the form of negativity, passive aggression, or mean-spiritedness.

When I was 16, my mom and I saw the Tom Hanks and Sally Field film, Punchline. Field and Hanks were two aspiring comedians. Hanks was a seasoned performer who almost always killed ’em at his shows. Field was a bright-eyed newcomer who had a knack for being funny, but not the skill. One of the most memorable scenes from that film is in the below clip, in which Hanks’ character suffers a meltdown on stage. The audience gets to see the other side of the comedian… the masked sad side, that doesn’t come out very often. In the heartbreaking scene below, the comedian “dies” on stage. He sucks. But he really only sucks for that performance. On other days, he kills. Hanks shows the humanity behind performance artists, who so many times are people who have been through a lot, yet aren’t allowed to show it.

Punchline… this was a good film. It was the first one I ever saw in a theater that was rated R. I was 16 years old. A lot of funny people are sad and angry deep down inside.

I can think of two comedians from some time ago who killed themselves. One was Richard Jeni, who was absolutely hilarious. He shot himself in the face in 2007.

One of his most memorable routines. He died too young.

Another was Ray Combs, who was best known as the host of Family Feud. Before he was a game show host, Ray Combs was a funny man. He used to warm up crowds and was so popular that he was recruited to take over Family Feud from Richard Dawson. But underneath that funny exterior was a man who was tormented by demons. It got so bad that he had to be hospitalized and, in fact, he died in the hospital by his own hand.

He kind of lets the mask slip on this 1994 episode, his last as the host of Family Feud. On “Fast Money”, Combs says “I thought I was a loser until you walked up here.” Ouch.

Even non-famous funny people often hide depression with jokes. When Bill and I first got married, he worked with a colonel at the Pentagon who was absolutely hilarious at parties. He would tell jokes and stories and make witty observations. But then, if you got him alone, you’d realize that he was actually a pretty grumpy person. He’d snap at people or make rude comments. I strongly suspected he might be depressed, because if you listened carefully to what he said, he was actually quite miserable, even if he was also funny.

Those who know me offline know I have my funny moments, too. I laugh a lot and I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor. In the 1990s, I had a boss who told me that I was one of the “happiest” people he’d ever met. But the irony was, I had just been diagnosed with depression. Inside, I felt really yucky, even if I was cracking jokes and being snarky. It’s more socially acceptable to be funny and sharp witted than depressed.

Which brings me to the title of today’s blog post. Every once in awhile, I get comments from people who presume to tell me what I should or should not be writing about on my blog. Last night, I got one such comment from a regular reader who has a habit of being critical. To be honest, I’m not sure what draws her to my blog. I’m not sure what draws anyone to my blog, since it so obviously sucks. It’s basically an open diary of things I think about. But this person comes back repeatedly and, more often than not, has criticisms for me. She’s not the only one, although she’s definitely the most persistent.

The Internet has more than two knobs on it… but you can still change the station if something isn’t appealing.

Some people seem to think I want or need constructive criticism on my blog. A couple of years ago, I got a very rude comment from a different woman who told me I needed to “let things go” regarding my husband’s ex wife, because she thinks I come off “bitter and petty”. Wow. What the fuck was she doing reading my blog if I came off that way and she was irritated enough to tell me? Just “change the station”. Move on to the next Web site, and leave me alone. To her credit, I think she did just that, because I pretty much let her have it, as did several commenters. She never commented again, and believe me, I don’t miss her.

I don’t get paid to write this blog. I write it for myself, mostly. If other people want to read it, that’s fine. But I don’t write it for you… I write for me. And if I want to write about TMI subjects, I have the right to. If I want to write about annoying exchanges on Facebook, I have the right to. If I want to complain or be negative or snarky… that’s my right. You have the right to keep scrolling if what I write isn’t appealing to you. I know that not everyone is going to like me or what I do. Fortunately, there’s plenty of other stuff on the Internet to read.

I could add to this list.

It wouldn’t be possible for me to know what every reader wants to read, even if I were that eager to please everyone who happens to stop by here. If the truth be told, I am feeling a bit depressed and angry lately. Like everyone else, my world has been altered a lot in 2020. I don’t have it nearly as bad as some people do, but like everyone else, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the changes of the past few months. It’s frustrating to see people on the Internet who refuse to notice what is right in front of them and cheerlead for people like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the right winged nutjobs who are taking our country back to the Dark Ages. I know I’m not alone in my frustration. Yesterday, I wrote about one trolling session I had with a guy named Justin. Believe me, I scrolled past plenty of others without engaging. But I chose to respond to Justin. Then, because I thought the exchange was funny, I decided to write about it.

From that post, someone decided that I “kill myself” over comments. Lady, that’s definitely not true, but even if it were, I don’t understand why it’s your concern. It’s my space. It’s my blog. You are here as a guest. If you don’t like what I write, please go somewhere else. And please stop trying to read my mind. It’s beyond offensive, and it’s making me consider turning off comments and/or going private.

Lots of people don’t like me. That’s the story of my life. Lots of people think my blog sucks. Plenty of people have advised me to “let things go”, which frankly, I think is an extremely shitty thing to say to someone. What right do you have to discount or invalidate other people’s thoughts and feelings, especially on THEIR space? You have the freedom of choice, especially if you’re American. If you don’t like my stuff, simply choose another Web site and leave me the fuck alone.

As I wrote in 2018:

I have two other blogs that are generally positive most of the time.  If you truly want to see a generally more positive, less TMI version of my writing, you’re welcome to check out my music blog or my travel blog.  You can easily find them.  But no one is forcing you to read this blog, and frankly, it matters not a whit to me that you think I’m “snotty, petty, and bitter.”  I don’t even know you, and won’t know the difference if you think I’m a bitch.  The fact is, I know the truth about who I am and so do the people who love and care about me… and there are still a few out there who think I’m alright.  So, thanks for the “constructive” criticism, but really… no thanks.

The above still applies today. If you don’t like my style, there’s the door.

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