celebrities, mental health, modern problems, psychology

Repost: Depression is not the “common cold” of mental illness…

I wrote the post below on June 9, 2018, when we were blissfully ignorant of the oncoming pandemic and all of the other shit that has happened in the past few years. I’m going to leave this post mostly as/is. I still feel this way in 2022, and I think that now, more than ever, we should be very careful about blowing off people who seem depressed.

This week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two much beloved, highly successful, incredibly talented people, suddenly decided to end their lives.  The news of both suicides came as a total shock to me.  I was especially blown away when I heard about Bourdain.

There’s a trite saying that depression is the “common cold” of mental illness.  I usually cringe when I hear that, though, because most people don’t die of the common cold, which can cause temporary misery, but usually goes away without any lingering effects.  Depression can be serious enough to cause death.  When depression is a factor, I don’t think of suicide as someone selfishly taking their own lives.  I think of it as a terminal event, much like people who have cancer or diabetes have terminal events that kill them.  What’s more, depression can go on for many years unabated.  It doesn’t necessarily clear up in a week or two like a cold does.

At this point, I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  Kate Spade’s husband has publicly come out to say that his wife had struggled with depression for many years.  Maybe Anthony Bourdain was also depressed.  I hesitate to assume I know why Bourdain decided to end his life.  The truth is, at this point, I really don’t know.  Most likely, he also suffered from the so-called “common cold” of mental illness.  Except depression is not really like the common cold at all.  

When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, many people were angry and outraged.  Initially, it was said that he’d had terrible depression, and he most assuredly did.  Many people felt he was simply weak and gutless for taking his life.  Then, some weeks later, it came out that Williams had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.  A lot of people don’t know anything about Lewy Body Dementia.  It’s not one of those diseases that gets a prominent face in the media.

My father had Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinsonian features.  I watched it take him from being an independent man with a sharp mind and a strong body, to a frail shadow of himself.  My dad was in his 70s when he was diagnosed with it.  It was devastating for him and for my mom, who spent at least six years taking care of him.  In the weeks before his death in July 2014, he was getting so debilitated that my mom was considering putting him in a nursing home.  It was becoming too hard for her to take care of him, even with the home health aides she had helping her.

Robin Williams was 63 when he died and, according to his wife, his case of LBD was very severe.  Although Williams died by his own hand, it was really the LBD, co-morbid with depression, that killed him.  Perhaps Bourdain was also facing a health situation that led him to kill himself.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he was just very depressed and simply decided that living was too painful.  I don’t know.  I actually couldn’t blame him in any event.  I have no idea what he was dealing with in his personal life and could never fully understand it even if I did.

I read that Bourdain died in Kaysersberg, France.  Bill and I were in Alsace two weeks ago and had made tentative plans to visit that town while we were there.  We didn’t end up going, but resolved to visit on a later trip to France. (2022- We did finally visit Kaysersberg two years ago, months before COVID took over the world).  It’s strange to think that this man, whose innovative food and travel journalism I only recently discovered, was just a mere two hours away from me when he died.  The area where Bourdain exited this existence is absolutely beautiful.  Given that he had very French roots, it almost seems fitting that he chose to die in France, even if I’m sorry it happened the way it did.

I only recently– like within the past three weeks– started watching Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown.  I started watching it because Bourdain had visited Armenia and I was curious about what he thought of it.  I was so impressed by the show he did on a country where I spent two years of my life.  My years in Armenia were pretty difficult.  In fact, my own issues with depression worsened significantly when I was there.  However, twenty-one years beyond my time in Armenia has left me with mostly good memories.  I don’t think as much about the profound feelings of worthlessness I experienced there… and so many years hence, I realize that my time there was not at all wasted.  It only seemed that way at the time, partly due to my life inexperience and partly due to the distorted thinking that comes from being depressed.

One thing I’ve noticed all week is that some people are sharing their own stories about depression.  Other people are imploring their friends and loved ones to “reach out” if they feel suicidal.  Many people are also sharing the suicide hotline.  I’m going to be frank and say that the repeated posts about the suicide hotline kind of get on my nerves.  It’s not because I don’t think people should know about and use the hotline.  It’s more because simply sharing that phone number is about as effective as offering “thoughts and prayers”.  Besides, not everyone who is depressed actually realizes they are depressed.  I didn’t know I was depressed until it had been going on for years.

Clinical depression causes a host of symptoms that make “reaching out” extremely difficult.  Depression robs people of their self-esteem and energy.  You might encourage your withdrawn friends to “reach out” and remind them that you’re always there to listen.  But in the mind of a depressed person, you’re not really talking to them.  Even if you were specifically talking to them, reaching out takes energy and courage.  And sometimes people say they want their friends to reach out, but then they aren’t actually available or interested.

Sometimes, instead of really listening and empathizing, well-meaning people try to cheer up their depressed friend by telling them about all the “good” things they have.  Personally, I think telling someone who is depressed and anxious to “buck up” and “get over it” is pretty much the worst thing you can do.  It’s very likely to backfire.  Someone who musters the courage to reach out, especially to someone who has encouraged them to do so, does NOT need to hear about all the apparently awesome things they have to live for.

Please don’t tell your depressed friend that they are being selfish, overly dramatic, or self-centered, either.  Shaming doesn’t help.  It only makes things worse.

What many depressed people really need is someone who listens to what they have to say and assists them in finding their way to a person who is qualified to help them.  Listen to your friend without interrupting.  When they tell you what’s on their mind, say something that validates their feelings and indicates that you understand that they need help.  You could say something like, “It sounds like you’re very overwhelmed right now.”  If you can’t help them yourself, you could say,  “Let’s find someone who can help you with these problems.”  That’s certainly better than, “I can’t believe you’re depressed.  Look at all this cool shit you have!  I’d kill to live in your house with your hot wife (or husband, as the case might be).”

On the surface, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had everything to live for.  They were both very successful in their careers.  Both were parents of young daughters.  Both had achieved financial success and had friends who adored them.  They were adored by strangers, too.  Still, somehow they both still made the decision to commit suicide.  They aren’t alone.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is on the rise in the United States.  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain no doubt had access to medical help that too many people in the United States don’t have, yet they still died by suicide.  Common colds don’t usually end that way, at least not in people who are basically healthy.    

I may have to watch more of Bourdain’s shows.  I’ll have to read at least one of his books.  He left behind so many gifts. Although he died by his own hand, and some people think that was selfish of him, I think he was a very generous person to share his talents with the world.  While I don’t own any of Kate Spade’s quirky creations, I’ve seen a lot of pictures of handbags my friends own.  They’ve been sharing those pictures all week, letting everyone know that Kate Spade mattered to them.  Sadly, when you have depression, you don’t notice that you matter to others… and when they tell you that you do matter, you don’t necessarily believe what they say.  Depression is a major mind fuck.  It’s really nothing like a cold.  And getting over it takes time, effort, money, and the ability to give a damn.

ETA in 2022: Fellow blogger and frequent commenter Alexis wrote this on the original post…

It’s interesting that you mentioned the “common cold of mental illness” analogy. A psychiatrist lecturer I heard in my second year disputed that analogy, saying that if a physical illness metaphor were needed or in any way beneficial, that depression would more correctly be described as “the ‘lupus’ of mental illness.” As with lupus, some people with depression mostly manage to function with medication. Others are never well but aren’t quite terminal. Others with either lupus or depression will lose their lives to the conditions. Depression is far from being a mostly self-limiting condition.

I had read another person refer to depression as the “diabetes” of mental illness. That also seems more like a realistic comparison of depression to a physical illness than a cold. At least if it’s clinical depression and not a situational depression.

Another commenter– DaBrickMaster– wrote this…

Depression should not be underestimated by any means, and it’s hard for someone who has never experienced it to understand. I went through a depression that slowly crept up on me several years ago, and it felt like I was trapped in an unescapable despair that I just wanted to end. I’m thankful for my parents and doctors who were there to support me to successfully get me out.

I realize now that many people out there aren’t so fortunate, and I just can’t imagine how one can get out of depression on your own. So if someone is stuck in a rut, I won’t hesitate to be there and help out.

Thanks for sharing this post, @knotty, and I’m terribly sorry that you and your family had to suffer from depression and LBD. They are most definitely NOT like a common cold.

And this was my response…

Thanks for the comment and for reading. I’m grateful I got through my depression and I’m happy that you got through yours. I think a lot of people just don’t understand it unless they’ve experienced it. The thing that made me realize that depression is a real illness was the process of feeling better and the rational thinking and mental clarity I finally had. It was like someone turned on a light.

I still have my blue days, but nothing so far like what I experienced twenty years ago. I hope I never feel like that again.

Standard
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.

Standard
complaints, condescending twatbags, healthcare, rants

Where is Richard Simmons when we need him?

Yesterday, I read an article in The New York Times entitled “Breaking Down the ‘Wellness-Industrial Complex,’ an Episode at a Time“. It was a surprisingly interesting and disheartening read. I wasn’t attracted to it because of the title, though. I decided to read it because of a quote that was used to draw attention to the article.

A man named Scott Cave, who lives in the Appalachian Mountains region of Virginia and has a doctorate in history, is a regular listener of the podcast, “Maintenance Phase”. The popular podcast, which has existed for about a year, is named after the concept of maintaining weight loss after a successful diet. The hosts, Aubrey Gordon, and Michael Hobbes, “spend each episode exploring what they call the “wellness-industrial complex,” debunking health fads and nutritional advice.” Gordon got started because she collects vintage diet books, and realized that a lot of them were full of ridiculous ideas that ultimately don’t work in keeping people slim and fit.

Cave says he listens to “Maintenance Phase” because “he appreciates the way the podcast examines and evaluates primary sources in a way that’s fun.” He also relates to some of the topics, since he himself has a weight problem. One time, “Maintenance Phase” did a show about how people who are overweight or obese are more likely to avoid seeing healthcare professionals. Cave identified with that, as once he visited an urgent care practice because he thought he’d broken his finger. He was told, “We don’t think your finger is broken. It might be, but you’re very fat, so you should probably deal with that.”

Mortified by the shaming comment about his weight, Cave ignored signs and symptoms of an autoimmune disease for a long time. He didn’t want to deal with more negative stigma about his size. So he suffered in silence with his swollen finger, and felt ashamed. That negative comment, while based in truth, dealt a terrible blow to Cave’s self-regard and trust in the medical care system.

I can relate to Cave’s reluctance to visit doctors. I haven’t seen one myself in about eleven years. In my case, it’s partly due to not wanting to be lectured about my size or my bad habits. It’s also due to some legitimate trauma I experienced at the hands of an OB-GYN who physically hurt me as she examined me, then fat shamed me.

This doctor’s pelvic exam was so painful that I cried out, and she basically told me to shut up as she stuck me with another, smaller speculum that also hurt. I bit my lip and gutted through the rest of the exam, hoping I wouldn’t pass out. I had to complete the exam so I could join the Peace Corps. Afterwards, the doctor told me I was too fat and would gain weight in Armenia. Then she basically shamed me because she wasn’t able to get a “good look down there”. She claimed I wasn’t “cooperative”. She offered me birth control, even though I was a virgin at the time. I left her office feeling completely violated, humiliated, and frankly, like I had just been assaulted.

It took twelve years for me to have another gynecological exam by a much kinder, more understanding, and professional physician’s assistant. She let me cry, and heard my explanation about why I was so upset and anxious. Then, when she did the exam, it didn’t hurt at all. I remember being so relieved that I wasn’t in pain. Then I was very angry, because the doctor who had done my first exam had hurt me without reason. I hadn’t thought to complain about her. I now wish I had.

I was so upset and stressed out during that second exam that the P.A. thought I had high blood pressure. I ended up having to visit her several more times before she was convinced that I had white coat hypertension. Sadly, we had to move out of the area. The P.A. also changed her practice, and now only works with cardiology patients. So even if we had stayed in the D.C. area, I wouldn’t have been her patient for long.

I last saw a doctor in 2011 at Bill’s insistence, because I thought my gall bladder was giving me issues. It’s probably full of stones. But the ultrasound didn’t show that the gallbladder was so inflamed that it needed to come out just then. And then we moved a bunch of times…

So no, I don’t go to doctors. I know I should, but I don’t. Aside from mycophobia (fear of mushrooms), I also have a touch of iatrophobia (fear of doctors). And I can understand why Cave doesn’t go to doctors, either. The experience is often demoralizing, expensive (for those who don’t have Tricare), and just plain awful.

As you might have guessed, after I read the article, I read some of the comments. Naturally, they were full of people who hadn’t bothered to read the article. Some were very unkind and lacking in empathy. One guy wrote that the article was “stupid” because it was full of people “making excuses”. In his comment he wrote that “all I see” are people justifying being fat. Then he added that he’d lost 100 pounds.

He got some blowback for that comment, including from yours truly. I wrote, “All I see is a guy who is a judgmental jerk. Congratulations on your weight loss. Looks like you also lost your ability to empathize.”

I got many likes for that. The original commenter came back and wrote that he DOES empathize, but Americans are all eating their way into diabetes. And I wrote that while it’s true that obesity leads to a lot of health problems, it’s not helpful to accuse people of “making excuses”, particularly if you’re a total stranger. I didn’t see any “kindness” or actual concern in his comments, only judgment. And then I wrote…

“If you truly do empathize and want to help people, you should be kinder and more empathetic. Instead of insulting and judging, you could be encouraging and enthusiastic. You could learn a lot from Richard Simmons on how to motivate people. Richard Simmons used to be fat, and like you, he lost a lot of weight. But instead of being mean to people, he encourages them. He actually CARES about them.” Of course, I wrote that taking the commenter at his word that he’s really trying to “help”. A lot of people who make comments about “personal responsibility” and concern troll the overweight are really just getting off by acting superior and being jerks.

As I wrote that comment, I couldn’t help but remember an old episode of Fame I recently watched. The character, dance teacher Lydia Grant (Debbie Allen), decides to teach an exercise class for some extra money. She thinks it’s going to be a “piece of cake”, since these were just middle aged women trying to get into a new dress. But when she teaches, using her usual demanding style, she finds that the women in the class aren’t successful. One woman in particular, name of Renee, is about to give up because Lydia is just too demanding.

But then Richard Simmons interrupts and shows Lydia how it’s done. He asks Renee if he could have this dance. Renee nods and the two proceed to work out. Richard is encouraging, enthusiastic, and kind, and Renee responds in kind. And not only does she complete the workout, but she also leaves with a big smile on her face!

Lydia says there’s no way Renee can meet her “impossible” goal of losing twelve pounds in two weeks. So Richard says, “That’s okay. Let her lose six pounds!” I think that makes a lot of sense, don’t you? There’s nothing that says Renee can’t meet part of her goal and take a bit longer to get where she wants to be.

I’m not saying I love Richard Simmons. In fact, I used to cringe when I saw his ads for Deal-A-Meal and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”. And I laughed when I read about how he slapped some guy who mocked him at the airport. I did like his 80s era talk show, but it was always on when I was at school.

I just think that when it comes to motivating people to lose weight, Richard is onto something that actually works. Fat people are people, too. Just like everyone else, fat people want to be valued and accepted. Nobody enjoys being insulted, shamed, and judged, especially by total strangers! Moreover, nobody wants to PAY for that experience, especially when the doctor dismisses the patient and says all of their health problems are brought on by a lack of discipline and willpower. And while the commenter on the New York Times piece may actually empathize and care about others, he has a really shitty and off-putting way of showing it.

I got another comment from another person who praised the first commenter for promoting “personal responsibility”. I think personal responsibility is all well and good. But you don’t know why someone is fat. You don’t know what their story is, or if they’ve actually done anything to lose weight. What if that overweight stranger you see has actually been losing weight? What if they’re out and about for the first time in weeks because they’ve lost twenty pounds? How do you think they would feel if you lectured them about personal responsibility and admonished them to slim down? Do you think those words would motivate them to keep going? Or is it more likely that they’d get depressed, say “what’s the use?” and go out for a double cheeseburger?

Besides being cruel and rude, fat shaming people is potentially very damaging. And a person’s weight is also none of your business.

Lydia Grant gets some tough love from Richard Simmons.

The fact that fat people have to work up the gumption to see doctors is a serious issue. I recently read a horrifying story about a 27 year old woman in Los Angeles named Amanda Lee who visited a doctor because she had lost 35 pounds, was having abdominal pain, and couldn’t eat. Instead of getting to the bottom of why Lee was losing weight and experiencing pain, the doctor said that maybe it was a good thing she was in pain and couldn’t eat. He continued the horror by saying that only being able to eat things like pureed apples was a “blessing”. And he added that she didn’t look “malnourished”. I would add that according to the photos and videos I’ve seen, she doesn’t appear to be that overweight, either. But then, it is Los Angeles. In any case, the doctor refused to do any testing on Lee, and she left his office in tears.

@mandapaints

“Maybe that’s not such a bad thing” not a time to joke.

♬ original sound – Amanda Lee

After her appointment, the mortified young woman recorded a TikTok video in her car. She was sobbing hysterically as she recounted what had happened during her appointment. Commenters encouraged her to see another doctor, so she did. That doctor did a colonoscopy on Amanda Lee and discovered a large tumor. She had surgery to remove it, and was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer!

As of June, she was receiving chemotherapy. I hope she also looks into suing that first doctor for malpractice! I’m grateful that the commenters on her video were kind, rather than fat shaming. I’m also glad she shared her story, because I think it will help a lot of people on many different levels.

Well… that about does it for today’s fresh content. We didn’t go out yesterday, so I suspect Bill will want to do something this afternoon. Enjoy your Sunday.

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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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athletes, book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Dorothy Hamill’s A Skating Life

And here’s another as/is reposted book review… It was originally posted in 2013.

I was three years old when Dorothy Hamill won the Olympic gold medal in ladies figure skating in Innsbruck, Austria in February 1976. She was nineteen years old and immediately became America’s Sweetheart. I don’t remember watching her win, but as a child of the 70s and 80s, I sure remember her. For awhile, I even had her haircut (my mom’s preference, not mine). So, when I recently saw her 2007 book A Skating Life on Amazon.com, I decided to read it.

This book is Hamill’s second autobiography. She wrote her first one in 1983, when she was just 26 years old. I did not read her first book, but I’m guessing that A Skating Life is an uglier book in terms of the realities of what Hamill endured on her way to the top. Although Dorothy Hamill has always seemed like an All American kind of athlete who would be right at home at Disneyland, the truth is, she has been through a lot. 

A Skating Life starts at the beginning, as Hamill writes about how she came to be a skater. Hamill had a difficult time with her mother, whom she describes as being hard to satisfy and difficult. It turns out her mom, who was very athletic, had suffered from dysthymia for most of her life. For those who don’t know, dysthymia is basically a low grade depression that makes it very difficult for sufferers to enjoy their lives. They aren’t at the point of not functioning, though. You might say they are perpetually cranky. Hamill’s father loved music and passed his love of music to Dorothy, who used that gift when she created her skating programs.

After Dorothy won the gold, she was expected to pay her parents back for all they did for her. For awhile, that was okay. She had the money. As time went on, the money started drying up and Dorothy had to cut her parents from the payroll. It caused a lot of hard feelings. 

In the midst of her problems with her parents, Hamill fell in love with her first husband, Dean Paul Martin. He was the love of her life. Sadly, their marriage didn’t last very long… and neither did Martin, who was killed shortly after their divorce. Martin did live long enough to see Dorothy get involved with her second husband, Dr. Kenneth Forsythe, who was a good looking man and the father of two kids from his first marriage. Sadly, he was not the most hard working fellow in the world. She shares a lovely daughter named Alexandra with Kenneth Forsythe, who is now her second ex husband.

I could go on, but that would ruin the book for potential readers. The point is, Dorothy Hamill has led a difficult life fraught with betrayal and financial problems. She has always had a very sweet reputation and is the very picture of adorable elegance. But behind the bright smile and sparkling eyes, there’s a woman who has coped with a lot of trials.

A Skating Life is reasonably well written. I thought it was an interesting read, even though it is a bit negative. Dorothy Hamill does try to look at the bright side of some of the situations she’s been in, including her purchase of the now defunct show The Ice Capades, which folded two years after she bought it. Ultimately, I think it’s a triumphant book, but some readers might find it a bit of a downer. Others might see it as a plea for sympathy.

Also, it’s important to realize that this book is already six years old. When A Skating Life was published, Hamill’s daughter was 18 years old. She’s now 25 years old. Dorothy has since remarried and was on Dancing With The Stars, but had to withdraw due to spinal issues. You won’t read about this in the book, though, making it a bit dated.  

Overall 

I think Dorothy Hamill was brutally honest in her book A Skating Life. I also got the sense that she wrote the book for financial reasons. However, as someone who has suffered from depression, I commend Hamill for writing about it and explaining that it’s a real phenomenon. Her mother suffered from it; so did Dorothy during the worst years, when she was considered “over the hill” and had a husband who was bilking her for money as he cheated on her. I also commend Dorothy Hamill for respecting her daughter’s relationship with her ex husband. I really have high regard for parents who, when they decide to divorce, don’t try to alienate their children from their exes. It sounds like Dorothy Hamill did her best not to do that, although she definitely doesn’t paint her second ex husband in a good light.  

I hope the ensuing years have been better for her.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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