Ex, mental health, politics

When QAnon brings estranged family members together…

Yesterday, I read a sad article in The Washington Post about how people have lost family members to QAnon. It began with a compelling description about how 24 year old Tyler watched as his mom stocked up for an imagined armageddon. She brought home ammunition, a water purifier, camping gear, and shelf stable food. She started wearing a holstered pistol just walking around her house, believing that there would be days of power outages and civil unrest.

Tyler’s mom told him that on March 4, 2021, there would be massive chaos. That would be when Donald Trump would return to power. March 4, for your edification, is the original Inauguration Day prior to the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1932.

Tyler had been living with his mother since he graduated college in 2019. They were located about an hour north of Minneapolis. As the 2020 elections approached, Tyler watched as his mom became more and more entrenched in baseless conspiracy theories and outright lies. Based on the WaPo’s article, I can assume that she turned into someone he no longer knew. Complicating matters was the presence of Tyler’s stepfather, who is apparently just as entrenched in QAnon.

The confusion in the household and worry Tyler experienced prompted him to seek help online. Last month, Tyler found the Reddit group, QAnonCasualties, which was founded by people who had watched their families fracture over the political climate in the United States. He explained to the moderators of the group that his mother and stepfather have a lot of weapons and are convinced that World War III is about to commence.

Making matters worse is the fact that Tyler hasn’t been working. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, Tyler had graduated from a local university with a degree in manufacturing engineering. He quit his job in early January because he hoped to find work that would make use of his newly minted degree. As of yet, he hasn’t found new work. As Inauguration Day approached, he watched his mom grow ever more unhinged.

An old friend had stopped by with a wedding present, since Tyler’s mom had just remarried. Noticing the pistol, the friend asked Tyler’s mom if she planned to shoot anyone that day. And Tyler’s mom reportedly replied, “You never know what’s going to happen with the Democrats. They stole the election.” The friend told WaPo reporters that Tyler’s mom had once been a “wonderful” person who had invited her over for tea and gone kayaking with her. But now, it seems she’s gone completely off the deep end. According to the article:

To protect his family’s anonymity, The Washington Post is only using Tyler’s first name. In an email, his mother blamed her son for the tension in the house, writing that he was disrespectful and refused to look for work after leaving his job earlier this year. She added that she “never even heard of Qanon until very recently” and doesn’t “follow it,” but declined to discuss why she had begun purchasing survival gear and whether she believed Trump would return to the White House in March. “My beliefs about Trump are actually none of your business,” she wrote.

Tyler said he and his mother discussed QAnon one time; a bizarre conversation in which his mother insisted that QAnon prophecies were the product of artificial intelligence. He described an atmosphere of growing conspiracy and fear that pervaded his home. “It started a month before the election,” Tyler said in an interview, “and it kept growing until it felt like she was preaching the Bible to me.”

At first she insisted that Trump, not Biden, would be inaugurated on Jan. 20, and for a while Tyler held out hope that Biden’s swearing-in would jolt his mother back into reality. She would put away her gun and life would return to normal. But, the ceremony in Washington seemed to make little difference at his house in Minnesota.

Tyler truly hoped his mom would be more normal once Biden was inaugurated. He even posted online that she had seemed more “normal” on January 21st. But very soon, she went back to her old ways, insisting that Trump would be back in the White House. So Tyler decided to confront his mom, and that confrontation ultimately led to his being ejected from her home. She even threatened to have her new husband “hurt” Tyler.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post… up until this point, it sounds like Tyler’s family fell apart due to QAnon. But he found help from his other parent– his biological father and stepmother. Tyler had lost contact with his dad when he was a child and they had only recently reconnected. And Tyler’s dad and stepmother were willing to take him in, once Tyler’s unhinged mom tossed him and his belongings out of her house. On February 3, 2021, Tyler texted his stepmother, Heather, and told her that he’d confronted his mom, telling her that he didn’t believe in QAnon or any of his mom’s whackadoodle theories.

Half an hour later, Heather picked up Tyler, who was waiting in the front yard. When he got into Heather’s car, Tyler started to cry. Tyler is now sleeping in his 7 year old half sister’s bedroom. She sleeps in her parents’ room. Not long after the confrontation with Tyler’s mom, Tyler was contacted by his new stepfather, who wrote “When your daddy gets sick of you living there (and he will) don’t bother calling us.”

Those of you who regularly follow my blog might already know that my husband lost contact with his daughters after he and his ex wife divorced. A few years ago, one of Bill’s daughters finally reconnected with him. The other one remains estranged, and is apparently hopelessly entrenched in her mother’s sick, culty world. Last year, just before COVID-19 shut everything down, Bill visited his younger daughter for the first time since Christmas 2004. When she opened the door, Bill said the two of them stood there and shared a long overdue hug. And then they spent the whole two days of Bill’s visit debriefing each other about the events of the fifteen years they had spent apart.

I don’t know anything about Tyler’s mom, but although Tyler’s mom’s friend describes her as a “wonderful” person, I have a feeling that she’s another one of those people who hates her exes more than she loves her children. I come to that conclusion, not just because she fell into the QAnon cult, but because of a comment Tyler made to his stepmother. When he texted Heather that his mom had threatened to have his new stepfather “hurt” him, he also explained that he wasn’t actually worried about his safety. He wrote, “I’ve been dealing with this for years. It’s normal for me.

When Bill and his daughter met last year, Bill heard in more detail what it was like to grow up with Ex. There were many threats and promises made. There was a lot of “culty” thinking, not just in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Ex had insisted on joining a few years before she and Bill split, but also in terms of her own mini narcissistic cult. The girls were forced to write Bill letters disowning him and demanding that he allow their stepfather, Ex’s third husband, to adopt them. Ex had reportedly stood over them and made them write the letters, which she sent Bill just in time for his 42nd birthday.

Something tells me that Tyler’s current stepfather is not his first, since he wrote to Heather that this was not a new thing. Tyler’s mom evidently has a history of coming unglued, and probably sees Tyler as an extension of herself. And when Tyler didn’t want to fall in with her QAnon fantasy, she cast him out… the same way Ex does to anyone who won’t play along with her fantasies. I don’t know enough about Tyler’s mom to say I think she’s a narcissist, but my guess is that she has a “high conflict personality”. And as Bill and I have observed with his ex wife, who also has a high conflict personality, these types of people often get sucked into things as they blame everyone else for their issues. With Ex, it was everything from multi-level marketing scams to the LDS church. Granted, the Mormons didn’t turn out to be all bad. They did help Bill’s daughter escape her mother. But the church doesn’t give things without strings attached.

Younger daughter no doubt feels indebted to the church, and believe me, it’s not unlike the leadership to capitalize on that human need for reciprocity— that is, feeling obligated to reciprocate “kind actions”. There’s nothing wrong with that on its surface. Sometimes, however, “reciprocity” can be abused, and people wind up trapped by the need to pay back a solid, even long after the “emotional debt” has been repaid. This is how groups get control over people and stop them from living their own lives and thinking for themselves. Pretty soon, the lovebombing that occurs at the beginning of the relationship can turn into something sinister and toxic.

I have long believed that my husband’s ex wife runs her life like a mini cult. Anyone in her sphere has to accept whatever her conditions are, no matter how nutty or destructive they are. She’s allowed to do anything she wants, even if it’s criminal, because she had a shitty childhood and no one recognized how “special” she is. She’s allowed to abuse her husbands and her children because she was abused, and she’s allowed to take that abuse as far as she wants with no repercussions, whatsoever. Meanwhile, those of us who have been affected by her behavior and dare to speak out about it get raked over the coals and smeared. She went as far as to alienate Bill’s children, but she also did her best to try to destroy his relationships with his own parents!

Like Tyler, Ex has at least a couple of children who are on the autism spectrum, which makes them more vulnerable to her toxicity. Bill’s older daughter supposedly has Asperger’s Syndrome, and younger daughter has said that Ex’s youngest child, a fourteen year old son, is non-verbal due to autism. Bill’s older daughter, who will turn 30 this summer, still lives with Ex and has supposedly devoted her life to caring for her brother, who will likely never be able to live on his own. Meanwhile, whenever Ex gets pissed off at older daughter, she threatens to throw her out of the house, even though older daughter does the heavy lifting involved with caring for Ex’s son. Sounds a lot like what Tyler went through with his mom.

Incidentally, Tyler went back to his mom’s house about a week after he moved out to pick up his stuff. All of his belongings were thrown out on the front lawn, where they soon became covered with snow. He still hopes that his mother’s Trump fervor will fade and he will eventually be able to reconcile with her. He said, “I just don’t see the humanity in this. I wanted my family back, not this hatred.”

For Tyler’s sake, I truly hope he can reconnect with his mom. I hope she is, deep down, a reasonable and decent person who can grow up and wise up, and see what she stands to lose by continuing to submit to the QAnon bullshit. I don’t know what made her fall down the rabbit hole, but it would not surprise me if Tyler’s mom had some trauma in her life that somehow made her feel ostracized and persecuted. And the siren call of QAnon, which is full of butthurt delusional people must have been much too hard to resist– so hard that she’s willing to kick her own son out of her life.

It’s not that I don’t empathize with the abused. I have no doubt in my mind that my husband’s ex wife was severely abused by many people when she was a child. I can understand why she’s so traumatized. What I can’t abide is her habit of throwing away family members and forcing her children and husbands to disconnect with those of whom she doesn’t approve. It’s possible, or even probable, that Tyler’s new stepfather is partly to blame for Tyler’s mother’s actions. However, reading that he has only now reconnected with his father and his father and stepmother, who have apparently been together long enough to have a seven year old daughter, have welcomed him into their home, gives me a feeling that Tyler’s mom has some serious issues. And those issues, like Ex’s, make her vulnerable to falling into cults from which they never escape.

Sadly, more often than not, the best thing to do in such a situation is go no contact and cut all ties. I don’t think younger daughter has gone completely no contact yet, but she has definitely come out of the F.O.G. since she moved away from Ex. As hard as that is, and as sad as it initially was, in the long run, it’s the only way to find peace, autonomy, and freedom from chaos and drama.

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Duggars, Ex, narcissists

“He’s just a little boy… let’s not condemn him to a life of fundie drudgery yet!”

Yesterday, I was hanging out in the Duggar Family News Facebook group when someone shared a cute picture of two of the Duggar grandchildren. I believe it was a picture of Josh’s second daughter, Meredith, and Jessa’s eldest child, Spurgeon. I think both kids are very cute, but Spurgeon appears to be especially adorable, despite his unfortunate name, which alternately reminds me of sturgeon or spooge. A lot of the people in the Duggar group called him “Spud” for short.

Anyway, I posted that I think Spurgeon is super cute and will be a “heartbreaker” when he gets older. Innocent enough comment, right? It’s the kind of thing people often say about attractive children. I didn’t realize what I wrote was controversial, but apparently, it was.

Here’s the conversation that ensued:

I was a bit non-plussed that my original comment, that I think Spurgeon is a “cutie” and will be a heartbreaker, turned into a prediction of the boy’s future. Spurgeon is only four years old; he turns five in November. And yet people in the Duggar group are already condemning him to a lifetime of being his grandfather’s “slave”.

“Here’s you some candy…” (actually, I have seen the candy challenge done by a lot of Mormons, too.)

Frankly, I find that thought very depressing. People in the Duggar group follow the pregnancies of the Duggar children with intense devotion and seem to cheer whenever a new pregnancy is announced. However, it seems that a fair number of them believe that the offspring of the Duggar “kidults” are doomed somehow. What a sad and limiting thought that is. Basically, a large group of people strongly believe that these kids have no minds of their own and no ability to make their own choices.

And yet, here’s Jill Dillard, wife of Derick Dillard and once considered the biggest Kool-Aid drinker of the bunch. She’s sending her son, Israel, to public school. She has a nose piercing, wears pants, and has even been photographed wearing shorts, sleeveless tops, and swimwear. Yes, it’s true that she and Derick are no longer welcome to come to the Duggar compound uninvited, but they are clearly making their own choices.

Jeremy and Jinger Vuolo, likewise, were able to escape Arkansas and live on their own out in California. They’ve been married a few years now, yet Jinger is only on her second pregnancy. She wears pants, has cut her hair, and colors it. It’s obvious that Boob no longer completely runs her life.

And finally, there’s Joy Anna Forsyth, who married her husband Austin a few years ago. Austin makes his own money flipping houses. It looks like they’ve largely removed themselves from the hopelessly dull Counting On series and are putting up their own videos on YouTube, for which they probably get paid directly.

I think these two might be living their own lives now.

But even if I’m wrong about Jill, Jinger, and Joy Anna, and their lifestyles are still completely under Boob’s control, I still think it’s within the realm of possibility that Spurgeon or any of the other Duggar grandchildren will bust out on their own and make their own choices. It’s happened in many families that are mini-cults.

Look at the people who have managed to escape Warren Jeffs, and other FLDS sects. I know I read a lot of books by women who were once sister wives– Irene Spencer’s excellent book, Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife, comes to mind. She was the second wife to Verlan LeBaron. Her sister wife, Susan Ray Schmidt, wife number six to Verlan, also wrote a book called His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy. I’m sure many people thought that Irene and Susan were trapped for life in the Colonia LeBaron FLDS polygamist nightmare, but they weren’t. They escaped and made new lives for themselves. There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of the Duggar grandchildren or children can’t also escape. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I would bet there will someday be a scandalous tell all about life as a Duggar. I bet there’s already a book in the works as I type this.

If there’s one thing I have learned from Bill’s experience with his hyper-controlling, narcissistic ex wife, it’s that people who are caught in these kinds of controlling groups DO sometimes wake up and take control over their own lives, even if the source of control is a close relative. My husband’s daughter did not speak to him for many years, mostly because her mother told her not to and she’d been fed a lot of lies. A lot of people thought it was hopeless that Bill would ever speak to his daughter again, let alone know his grandchildren.

I always somehow knew younger daughter would eventually come around. I figured she would do it before her older sister would, simply because she had a stronger personality. But I knew it would happen someday that she and Bill would speak again. I’m grateful that my initial predictions weren’t completely what came to pass. I figured she’d get in touch to spite her mother, because I was under the mistaken impression that she was just like her mom. I thought that she would try to use Bill, like her brother did. It turns out that, as far as we can tell, she’s much more like Bill, which is a wonderful blessing.

I still have hope that older daughter will also come around someday… but if there’s one thing Bill and I have BOTH learned, it’s that being “disowned” is not the end of the world. Yes, it’s extremely hurtful to be cast out, but the pain is definitely survivable. Some people truly would rather go through the pain of being disowned than surrender their free will to someone else. Many people are determined to make their own decisions in life, and choose to break out of extremely controlling family systems and do what they want. There is absolutely NO reason to believe that one of the Duggar grandchildren won’t do that.

Boob can’t control them all forever, and who’s to say that someone even more narcissistic or toxic won’t come along push him out of power? There are simply too many of them. Even Fred Phelps, creator of the damnable Westboro Baptist Church, was eventually ousted from his own family created church fiefdom. It takes a lot of energy and strength to control people, and the older and weaker a controlling person gets, they more likely it is that they’ll eventually be pushed aside by someone younger and stronger. Everyone– even Jim Bob Duggar– has a match. Moreover, most of us have never met the Duggars and only know about them what we’ve seen on TV and read in the media.

I truly hope that any of the Duggar children or grandchildren who want to live life on their own terms will eventually be able to do so. I refuse to sell any of them short. I disapprove of making predictions about how a child will turn out, particularly when the child is as young as Spurgeon Seewald is. He’s only FOUR. A whole lot can happen in fourteen years, when Spurgeon will be considered an adult. Let’s give him a chance to grow up a bit before we make predictions about his future.

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