memories, mental health

Repost: The futility of advising someone to “let it go”…

I wrote this post in the fall of 2018. It was “born” out of a comment I got from someone who was irritated about my tendency to “trash” my husband’s ex wife. This person, who wasn’t someone who had been reading the blog for a long time, thought I was just a bitter second wife. I’m pretty sure I know who the “anonymous” commenter was, as she had been sending me private messages about moving to Germany. In those discussions, she told me she was a “first wife” of someone. I suspect that she thought I was attacking all first wives, when I was really just commenting about my situation with Bill, and how I felt about HIS ex wife. Bill’s ex wife is a special kind of terrible. And no, I certainly don’t think ALL exes are like her, and thank GOD for that!

Anyway, the offended person left me a comment telling me how “inappropriate”, “TMI”, and “negative” she felt my blog is, and advised me to “let it go”, or keep my negative posts about Ex private. She said I came off as “bitter, petty, and snotty”. I was kind of scratching my head at those comments. Was she really expecting me to take her unsolicited advice, especially when they were delivered in an insulting way? I mean, maybe I would if she was a friend of mine, but she was a random person on the Internet who had left me a comment with the moniker “Wondering Why”.

Maybe I would have considered taking her suggestion if people were paying me to write this blog… but as it stands right now, I don’t even take tips for this space. I only recently monetized this blog as an experiment. I may decide to demonetize it, since I don’t like looking at ads any more than anyone else does. But the travel blog is monetized– so far it’s raked in a big fat $1.70. I get far fewer hits on the travel blog, so I would like to see if this blog does better, and if so, how much better.

This post from November 2018 is left “as/is”. It came in the wake of a post I had written comparing Ex to “Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write the coyote post after Bill told me about things his daughter had told him about growing up with Ex and some of the really fucked up shit she did (and continues to do). My husband’s former wife is legitimately toxic and crazy, and it was upsetting to hear about things she did to her own children. So I processed those feelings by writing about them in an admittedly “negative”, “personal”, and “snarky” post comparing Ex to a feckless cartoon character whose harebrained schemes never work out for the best.

Like Wile E. Coyote, Ex usually assumes she knows better… and in fact, she often seems to think she knows all. But the end result of a lot of her big ideas usually turn out to be disastrous, and they have ripple effects that harm innocent people– even people like me, who get upset at hearing about them and write blog posts that piss off clueless readers. I get rude comments, then feel compelled to write even more. 😉 See? More ripple effects!

I should mention that at the time, I was feeling especially stressed out, because we were about to move out of our last house. I knew ex landlady drama was coming, as well as the sheer pain in the ass of moving, so my mood was definitely affected. I still think there are some pearls of wisdom in this piece. I was pretty gratified that several then regular readers left comments for “Wondering Why”, advising her to move on if she didn’t like my material. I still think that’s good advice for anyone. So here goes…

About twenty years ago, I was working as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office.  While I was working there, I became friendly with an older lady named Peggy, who, like me at that time, lived in Gloucester, Virginia.  As I got to know Peggy, I learned that she had a daughter who had been friends with my older sister, Sarah, when they were in high school in the early 80s. 

Over the few months that I worked in the admissions office at William & Mary, Peggy and I got to know each other better.  The work I was doing was pretty boring.  It was mostly filing and data entry on an ancient (by 1998 standards) computer.  You might be surprised by what high school seniors were sending to William & Mary in 1998.  William & Mary is a very prestigious school, and it receives many applications from outstanding students around the country and the world. 

I don’t know if it’s still true today, but back in the late 90s, Virginia had a law that required in state publicly funded colleges to admit a certain number of students from Virginia.  That meant that gaining admittance to William & Mary as an out of state or international student was extremely difficult.  Consequently, not only did the admissions office receive stellar test scores, personal essays, and transcripts from hopeful students; it also received a lot of other supporting documents, all of which needed to be filed.  That’s where I came into the picture. 

It was really an eye opening experience to see what people sent to the admissions office in their personal quests to become members of the “Tribe”.  It was insane, and created a lot of work for temping drones like me.  I noticed that most of the extra stuff did nothing but add detritus to each applicant’s folder.  It was pretty rare that an extra supporting document would result in an offer of admission to someone who otherwise would have been rejected.  Some of it was entertaining to look at, though.

I remember one girl’s mother sent a photocopy of her out of state nursing license and a picture of a younger version of the girl standing in front of the Wren Chapel with her family.  There was a supporting document from the girl’s dad, a police officer, stating that the family planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter in her academic endeavors.  I recall that this young lady didn’t gain acceptance to William & Mary.  I hope she found a school that she liked just as much.  Having been rejected by my first choices when I was a high school student, I understand how rejection feels.  But then, I did manage to find a great school for my purposes, so it all turned out fine in the end.

Anyway, this story comes up in the wake of yesterday’s minor drama on this blog, in which a first time commenter advised me that I need to “let it go”, regarding my husband’s ex wife.  Telling somewhat to “let it go” is kind of akin to telling them to “get over it”.  Personally, I think it’s an extremely rude, dismissive, and short-sighted thing to say to another person, particularly someone you don’t know.  I do understand why some people think it’s constructive advice, although frankly, I think it’s futile to tell someone they need to “let it go”.  Sometimes, it’s just not possible.  I came to that conclusion while I was working with Peggy.  She offered an analogy that I’ve not forgotten in the twenty years since we met. 

I was sitting on the floor next to a giant filing cabinet and Peggy’s cubicle.  I had a huge stack of essays, drawings, certificates, test scores, and the like, that I was stuffing into manila folders dedicated to each new applicant.  It was mindless work that numbed my brain as it chapped my hands.  Peggy helped me pass the time by telling me about her upbringing.  It turned out that, like me, she was raised by an alcoholic.  However, while my dad was the alcoholic in our family, in Peggy’s case, it was her mother who drank too much.  Peggy’s mother was extremely abusive to her.  Consequently, Peggy grew up suffering from depression and anxiety, and she had lingering feelings of hatred for her mother.  There was no love between Peggy and her mom, because Peggy’s mother had repeatedly beaten her up mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I felt sad for Peggy that she had those feelings toward her mom.  I may not always love the way my own mom behaves, but I do love her very much.  She was the sane parent; which isn’t to say that I didn’t love my dad.  I did love him, and mostly try to remember him fondly.  He did have a good side.  But he was often mean and abusive to me, and those memories are hard to erase.  I am now kind of “saturated” when it comes to abuse from other people.  I simply can’t tolerate it.

Peggy explained that as the years passed, her depression lingered, even though in 1998, she was probably in her 60s and her mother was long dead.  Peggy didn’t seem depressed to me in person.  In fact, she was bright, funny, friendly, and cheerful.  A lot of people have described me in the same way.  More than one person has told me they think I’m “bubbly”.  Some people even think I’m hilarious.  In person, I joke a lot and laugh and giggle.  A lot of “funny” people are like that.  Humor is a way to mask depression and anxiety.   

In 1998, I, too, was suffering from significant clinical depression and anxiety, and at that time, it had gotten really bad.  I had actually had these issues for most of my life, but in 1998, it was especially severe.  That was the year I finally decided to seek professional help, and got prescription medication for the depression that had dogged me for at least ten years.  I was not under a doctor’s care when I worked at William & Mary, though.  At that time, I was too poor to get help, and I had no health insurance.  Also, I didn’t know I was depressed and anxious.  That was the way I’d always been, only it was much worse in ’98 than it was in the preceding years.  That year, I thought of suicide fairly often.  I still sometimes have those fleeting thoughts, but it’s not nearly like it was in those days.  I’m probably more dysthymic now than anything else.

I remember Peggy explained in detail what she’d endured during her formative years at home, when she’d had no choice but to endure her mother’s constant insults, taunts, and physical abuse.  She got away from her mother as soon as she was able to and married a man with whom she was not compatible.  They eventually divorced, and Peggy was left alone to raise her daughter, which was very difficult for her.  At the end of her story, I remember Peggy telling me that having clinical depression is a lot like trying to function with a broken arm.

If you met a person with a broken arm, would you tell them they need to “let it go” and “get over it”? Would you assume that you know what the timeline should be for them to “heal” from a physical injury?  I’m sure there are cases of people who heal from broken bones very quickly.  Maybe you’ve had a broken bone and bounced back in just a couple of weeks.  But does that mean that someone else can heal in that same timeframe?  Maybe the other person has mitigating circumstances that make healing more difficult for them.  I think it’s often the same for depression and other mental health issues.  Some people heal faster than others.

I have never forgotten Peggy’s comparison of clinical depression to having a broken bone.  In either case, the condition is crippling and painful, especially without treatment.  I was especially clued in to how astute the comparison is when I did seek medical help in 1998.  It took about three months, but I finally found an effective antidepressant that literally changed my life.  When I got my brain chemicals straightened out, I was amazed at how much better and more competent I felt.  It really drove home to me that depression is a real illness and not just made up bullshit in my head. 

For so long, I felt so guilty about who I am.  I thought there was something truly “wrong” with me.  When I finally took the right medication and eventually felt the way non-depressed people feel, I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being depressed.  Depression was, indeed, a sickness that was beyond my control.  I couldn’t will myself not to be depressed.  I needed help to move beyond it.  In my case, potent antidepressants and counseling from an empathetic psychologist did the trick.

Now… this does not mean that a person can’t learn techniques to combat depression, and it doesn’t give a person an excuse to be a jerk to other people.  However, I did finally realize that depression is real, and it will probably always be a part of my life.  Being negative, grumpy, and bitter is a part of having depression.  Maybe some people don’t find that side of me pleasant and they think all they need to do is tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  I’m sure it seems that easy to them.  It’s not that easy for me.  I write in this blog to process those feelings instead of acting on them in a destructive manner.  In other places, I try to be less negative and bitter.  Some of my readers interact with me in other places and have seen that I’m generally not as “bitchy” there as I can be here.  It’s because I have a place to put most of the bitchy stuff, and that’s here in this blog. 

I realize that some people don’t like me or stuff I write.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten to a point at which I no longer feel the need to try to please others.  I do wish I were a more likable, positive, friendly, and popular person.  I have accepted that I will never be those things, and that’s okay.  I don’t take antidepressants now.  Maybe I will again at some time, but at this point, I’d rather not.  So I write blogs and publish them, and I make music.  Sometimes people like my efforts, though I think more people are either indifferent or think they can fix my problems by telling me to “let it go”.  My own mother has, more than once, told me to “let it go”.  I actually love my mom and I haven’t been able to take her advice.  What makes you think you’ll be more successful at giving me that advice than she’s been?  And why does it even matter to you if I’m “inappropriate” or share too much information?  It’s not your life, is it?  You don’t have to read this stuff.

I suppose I could make this blog private and I have openly suggested doing that before.  However, I have had several people tell me that they enjoy reading my blog.  So I leave it public for them and anyone else who understands.  If you don’t understand, and you find me unpleasant, I won’t be upset if you move on to another place on the web.  You’re certainly not the first one to find me unpleasant.  But please don’t glibly tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  That is a very dismissive thing to say to another person and it’s not right to discount other people’s feelings, particularly when you are a guest in their space.

As for my husband’s ex wife, I’m sure it would be amazing if I could simply “let it go” that she did her best to destroy my husband’s happiness, career, and connections to people who love him.  I wish I were that mature and magnanimous.  I’m not there yet, and I don’t think I will ever be there.  How do you forgive someone who sexually assaulted the love of your life and then denied him access to his children while spreading vicious lies to his parents about the kind of person he is?  I’m sure if it had happened to me, my husband would be equally angry.  So, you’ll have to excuse me for not “letting it go” where she’s concerned.  It will probably take a much longer time than I have left in life to completely get over it.  But with every day, there’s fresh hope. 

Don Henley’s good advice… but has it worked out for him? He’s still pissed at Don Felder, isn’t he?
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true crime

Repost: Six months in jail and a lifetime in hell…

One more repost today. This is a post I wrote in June 2016, when Brock Turner was in the news. I am reposting this as/is because I mentioned Brock Turner in today’s fresh content and reposted my review of Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me. Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Brock Turner’s on video.

I just read the tragic story about a 23 year old woman who was brutally assaulted and raped behind a Dumpster in California in January 2015.  The woman’s attacker, Brock Allen Turner, was then a Stanford University freshman and a star swimmer.  He had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit in California and was in the middle of thrusting into his unconscious victim, when he was spotted by two Swedish Stanford graduate students who happened to be passing by on their bikes.  Thankfully, they didn’t hesitate to get involved.  Turner tried to run, but the graduate students tackled him.

Now in June 2016, the former Stanford University athlete has finally had his day in court.  He faced his victim, who read a very powerful letter to him.  And then, Judge Aaron Perskey, handed down an astonishing sentence.  Turner, who had just been convicted of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, was sentenced to a mere six months in jail and probation.  Prosecutors had requested six years in prison.  Judge Perskey cited Turner’s lack of a prior criminal history and said “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

But he was a danger to one person.  If you haven’t read her letter to her attacker, I highly recommend reading it.  If you are a parent, especially to sons, I would have them read the letter, too.  Rape is too often swept under the rug.  

Brock Allen Turner will serve his time and be out and about again. He may spend six months of hell in jail. His victim has a lifetime of hellish memories to live with. She says she doesn’t remember the assault itself because she was unconscious. What she does remember is waking up in a hospital, her clothes confiscated. She remembers her hair full of pine needles, and cuts and abrasions all over her body. She remembers how the nurses documented her injuries, and being warned that she should be tested for HIV, because sometimes it takes awhile for the virus to show up in tests.

Brock Allen Turner’s victim will then have memories of being in court, being asked very intrusive and pointed questions designed to remove the glare of guilt from the accused. She will remember being asked what she was wearing, how much she was drinking, and whether or not she was sexually active. She will spend the rest of her life remembering how another human being attacked her while she was passed out drunk. It will color her relationships with other people, especially people with whom she will have intimate relationships. It will affect her friends and family and perhaps future children, if she has them. This rape won’t just affect the victim. It will have ripple effects that will affect many people for years to come.

Before I read about Turner’s attack on the unconscious woman, I was reminded of a case from my generation.  Back in the fall of 1990, I was a college freshman in Virginia.  I had a friend who was a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This friend and I had grown up near Williamsburg and she had opted to go to school close to home.

My former friend had a classmate at William & Mary who made huge headlines in 1990.  Her name is Katie Koestner. Koestner made the news when she went out on a date with a guy who raped her in her dorm room.  When she sought justice, she was basically brushed aside by the powers that be.  She fought back and was later pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.

I remember my ex friend making disparaging remarks about Katie Koestner. A lot of people at William & Mary were upset because she was demanding justice and “cheapening” their degrees by making William & Mary “known” for rape. William & Mary is an excellent school, and it’s the second oldest university in the United States. I worked in their admissions office as a temp for awhile and saw the applications from would be students. It was 1998, a full eight years after Koestner’s rape. Plenty of people still sought admission and thought of the school as outstanding. I’m surprised at how stupid Koestner’s classmates were in their assumption that Koestner’s decision to report her rape makes their college less desirable. In any case, many people seemed to think Koestner was making much ado about nothing and seeking attention.

Years later, when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, Katie Koestner came to speak on campus. I went to her presentation and was very impressed by her. In fact, of all the people in the crowd that evening, I may have been one of the most affected. I am the same age she is, and I remember when her story was daily news. Like Elizabeth Smart, Katie Koestner has turned her victimhood into something positive. She now speaks about rape to college students.

I have been fortunate.  I have never been raped.  However, I have friends and loved ones who have suffered rape.  Without going into too much detail, I want to remind people that it’s not just women who are rape victims.  It happens to men, too.

Rape has ripple effects, just like any violent crime against a person does.  It’s one thing if someone steals your iPod.  It’s quite another if they steal your virginity, your sense of security, or your self worth.  The physical injuries may heal, but the emotional and mental injuries can last a lifetime.  Brock Turner will get his six months in jail, but his victim is likely to spend a lifetime in hell every time she remembers what she’s been through.  That seems terribly unfair to me.

ETA:  Not long ago, I reviewed Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me.  Seccuro was also raped at college.  She was a student at the University of Virginia in the mid 1980s and her case was similarly treated with suspicion and disdain.  I highly recommend her book.  It provides a valuable empathy check for those who want to discount rape.

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book reviews

Repost: My review of Crash Into Me by Liz Seccuro

I am reposting this book review from December 7, 2014, because today’s fresh post mentions Brock Turner and the book is about a woman who was raped at a fraternity party. The review is posted as/is, so keep that in mind as I mention current events as of 2014.

If you’ve been reading the news lately, you may have seen an article that was recently published by Rolling Stone (the article has been taken down as of 2020) about a young woman named “Jackie” who claims that she was gang raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia.  I read the article when it was hot off the presses, alerted to it by a friend of mine who is a college professor in Virginia.  Later, the media indicated that Jackie’s story might not have been entirely truthful.  There were discrepancies in her story and it was clear that the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not done all of her homework.  She never attempted to get the other side of the story and, instead, just ran with her big, sensational piece that led to fraternity activities at the University of Virginia being temporarily suspended.

While it’s disappointing when scandalous news is reported that turns out to be not quite true, the huge backlash from the original story did get people talking about rapes on college campuses.  That’s how I came to discover Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me

On October 5, 1984, Liz Seccuro, then known as Liz Schimpf, was a first year student at the University of Virginia.  She was very proud to be at UVA, since she was the first person in her family to get to go to college.  With ambitions of becoming a writer, Liz planned to major in English.  At just 17 years old, she was still a minor, but fitting into campus life and making friends.

That October night, Liz’s friend, Jim, asked her to accompany him to a party at a fraternity house.  Jim hoped to rush the fraternity and felt it would look better if he had a girl on his arm, even though he and Liz were strictly friends.  Liz didn’t want to go to the party, but Jim made a strong appeal and she finally consented to go.  While they were at the party, Jim went outside to smoke some marijuana with some of the brothers.  Liz ended up talking to a large stranger who seemed to be hitting on her.

She was drinking her second beer when a brother handed her a very tart glass of spiked punch.  The punch apparently had some type of drug in it that incapacitated Liz, who was soon hustled into the stranger’s bedroom.  The large man started pawing at her, reading her poetry, and finally, getting very physical.  Liz tried to escape, but her purse was locked away in a room.  As she screamed and banged on the locked door trying to get attention, her attacker and another man subdued her and dragged her back into the bedroom, where she was brutally raped.  As it turned out, she was raped not just by the first guy, but by at least two others.

When she regained consciousness hours later, Liz was wrapped in a bloody sheet.  Her attacker invited her to take one of his jackets since it was “chilly” outside.  Then he said he hoped he’d been “a gentleman”. 

Liz tried to get help for herself.  She first went to UVA’s hospital, where she was told she’d need “tests” that they didn’t offer there.  The nurse said she’d have to go to Richmond or Washington, DC to be properly examined.  Later, she went to student health, where she was examined by a nurse.  She spoke to deans, who seemed intent on sweeping the issue under the rug and handling it internally.  Liz was told that UVA preferred to “take care of their own”.  She was also told that the Charlottesville Police Department did not have jurisdiction over the fraternity house, so they would have to deal with University Police.  As it turned out, that was a blatant lie.

Liz stayed in school, while her attacker, who claimed that their sexual encounter had been “consensual”, withdrew from UVA.  Liz joined a sorority, made friends, dated a bit, and eventually graduated.  By September 2005, she was happily married to her second husband and enjoying their young daughter, Ava, and her thriving event planning business, when she got a strange letter in the mail.  It was from her attacker, William Beebe, an alcoholic living in Las Vegas who was trying to work his Alcoholics Anonymous steps by making amends to those he had harmed.  He was apparently tormented by guilt stemming from the attack and was reaching out to his victim, trying to right his wrongs toward her.

The initial letter came as Liz and her family were about to go on a working vacation.  It devastated Liz, who then began an email exchange with William Beebe.  Eventually, as there is no statute of limitations against rape in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Seccuro decided to press charges against Beebe.  Crash Into Me is her riveting, horrifying, yet beautifully written account of her experiences. 

I must admit that I was partly interested in Seccuro’s story because I am from Virginia and attended a college not too far from UVA.  Growing up, UVA was everybody’s dream school.  It’s an excellent public university where the parties are as legendary as its scholarship.  Greek life at UVA, as it was at my own alma mater, is very popular.  So is heavy drinking.  Though I don’t remember any stories about sexual assault at my college, I’m certain they existed.  Perhaps they were even covered up, the same way they were at UVA when Liz Seccuro was a student.  I think it’s shameful that this happened to Liz Seccuro or anyone else, but it’s even more shameful that UVA apparently tried to sweep it under the rug rather than help victims seek justice.

When I was a freshman at what was at that time Longwood College, there was a big story about date rape in the news.  It involved Katie Koestner, who was a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  At the time, a former friend was attending William & Mary, so I heard all about the local uproar about Katie Koestner from her, especially when she appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine.  Later, Koestner spoke at the University of South Carolina, where I was in graduate school. Koestner’s story was somewhat different than Seccuro’s in that she and her attacker had been out on a date.  In Seccuro’s case, the attacker(s) were total strangers.     

I think Liz Seccuro’s story is very important, especially to high school and college aged women.  While rape is never the victim’s fault, Seccuro’s story does offer a cautionary tale to women about staying safe at social events and being careful about drinking alcohol and being separated from a crowd.  Women shouldn’t have to be so vigilant about their own personal safety, but unfortunately, there are a lot of creeps out there.  And apparently, rape is a big problem at UVA and elsewhere.  Even cultural icons like Bill Cosby, who made a career out of being “fatherly” and is the last person most would think capable of rape, is under fire for allegedly drugging and raping women.

I highly recommend Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me.   

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