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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social media

You can go now…

We had a pretty dull long weekend. Bill had Friday off because of the Fourth of July, but we didn’t end up doing anything special, despite Bill’s best efforts to get me out of the house. However, I did have a good guitar day yesterday, which I wrote about on my travel blog. My travel blog, by the way, is going to wake up again soon, because I have booked a short trip that starts in eleven days. We will spend three nights in the Eifel region of the Mosel Valley, which is about a two hour drive from where we live. There’s a lot of stuff to do outdoors, so I think we’ll be busy, especially if the weather is good. Bill has been a good sport about my stubborn refusal to venture out, although I think he’s feeling kind of tense.

I’ve mostly been trying to stay out of trouble on social media, although I’m still thinking that it may be time to move on from it. Last night, Red Peters, a hilarious comedian who writes and sings funny songs and promotes the songs done by other people, got really pissed off by one of Facebook’s recent censorship policies. He says he’s going to get off of Facebook by September 1st. I can’t blame him, as I was also recently wrist slapped by Facebook over something really stupid. Maybe I’ll follow suit… or maybe not. But one thing is for certain. Facebook may be a way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it’s also the source of a whole lot of annoyances.

Take, for instance, a recent trend I’ve noticed. Sometimes my “friends” send me private messages. The messages are almost never about anything important. They’re often videos or memes that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to post on their own page, and sometimes they send them without comment. Or they put them on their page, but they also send them via PM to their friends. Personally, I don’t like this practice. I understand that some people do it because it’s something obnoxious or controversial and they only want to share it with people who will appreciate it and not start a shit storm. I get that, and I do have a couple of friends who are very civilized, but have a good sense of humor and they know I’ll think something’s funny and even share it for them.

But– I also sometimes get these PMs from people I don’t know that well and/or engage with often. Sometimes, they’re the annoying “pass it on” posts– you know, like the ones that tell you to post what color your bra is (I rarely wear them anymore unless I’m going out). It’s supposed to be for breast cancer awareness, but it’s really just a stupid timewaster that doesn’t really do anything more than irritate people. Below is an excerpt about the bra campaign from a book entitled Online Activism: Social Change Through Social Media:

Yes, I got these messages. No, I did not participate.

Sometimes they’re just memes or videos sent without comment. If the sender is someone I know well and/or have engaged with more than a couple of times, I may have an inkling as to why they sent the message. Maybe I’ll even care enough to ask them. I still think it’s an irritating practice to PM these things, mainly because I think private messages should be reserved for items that really should be kept private and are actually important. Memes and videos don’t generally fall into those categories. Still, I’m more willing to cut more slack to people I know than people I don’t.

Last night, someone sent me this meme without comment:

How should I take this?

The person who sent this is a nurse. We “met” on a site for second wives and stepmothers, and there was a time when we interacted frequently. She lives far away from me, even when I’m stateside, so we have never met offline. Lately, we haven’t been chatting much at all. So last night, when I got a PM from her out of the blue, and it turned out to be the above image, I wasn’t sure how to take it. I’ve repeatedly stated that I’m not on the mask bandwagon. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t comply with the rules, nor does it mean that I don’t take the pandemic seriously. I SIMPLY STAY AT HOME. While I go many days between mask wearings, I also don’t go to places where I encounter people who could be adversely affected by my germs. On the rare occasions when I do go out, I follow the rules. I just don’t like or agree with them. Fair enough?

Lots of people disagree with me about the masks, and that’s fine. I figure that if I’m mostly staying at home, I’m probably doing more than they are to flatten the curve, anyway. The world doesn’t need me to preach about face masks. Plenty of people are already doing that repeatedly and annoyingly. I don’t need to add my voice to the cacophony. I don’t need to cheerlead about the masks, even if they do help slow the spread of the virus. They still suck. Nothing about wearing a mask is fun, and most people have the right and ability to make up their own minds about them. They don’t need my help any more than I need theirs.

Because there was no comment with my friend’s “meme”, and I have no idea if this person has been paying attention to my social media, I wondered if she thought I would like the meme, or if it was a dig. I suppose I could have responded to her. Maybe that would have been the right thing to do. Ultimately, I decided that the face mask meme wasn’t something I care that much about, so I didn’t comment. But since this is a common practice– for people to send unimportant stuff via PM without comment– I decided to ask my Facebook friends why people do it. I don’t PM people unless I have something important to tell them privately, but people PM me all the time. I try to be tolerant, but I must admit I get annoyed, and I just wanted to understand the rationale behind the PM blitzing. Some of my “regular” friends were having a nice discussion with me, with a few people agreeing with me that this is an annoying practice.

And then, I got a message from someone else I “met” on the same site for second wives and stepmothers. This person, who is now no longer a friend, probably interacted with me more often than the person who sent the meme, but we still didn’t talk much. When we did regularly used to communicate some years ago, we often disagreed.

For instance, she didn’t like that I was vocal about my disdain for Mormonism. She said it was “disrespectful”, although she isn’t herself LDS. I disagreed, since the LDS church was successfully used as a weapon against Bill’s relationship with his children, and that’s a problem that affects many people. She felt that I shouldn’t say out loud that I don’t like Mormonism, out of respect to a Mormon woman who was also in our group. The Mormon woman, by the way, was more than capable of sticking up for herself and her religion, and she did so vehemently and consistently. Besides, I felt that the purpose of the group was to discuss these issues and how they affect “steplife”. Like it or not, a highly controlling lifestyle religion like Mormonism does affect things, particularly when not everyone involved is LDS. But this now former friend felt I was out of line to bring it up, or she felt the way I brought it up was unkind. She had no trouble telling me so, even though it didn’t really change my opinion or behavior. She didn’t seem too interested in seeing my perspective, either.

Anyway, beyond that squabbling, which we hadn’t been doing in recent years, we rarely had much to say to each other, especially currently. Neither of us has a lot of steplife drama anymore. But she still felt the need to add her two cents to last night’s discussion.

She posted: Man, I never wanted to PM unexplained memes so badly in my life….

Again…. not really sure how to take this. So I posted that I would like to turn off the PM function entirely, or make it for certain people, which she responded with a “laughing” reaction. At that point, I assumed that she was making a passive aggressive dig and trying to stir up shit. I figured that if she has something to say to me, but can’t be bothered to just say it, we probably aren’t really friends. Since I didn’t know how to take her comments, we were never close, and I don’t remember ever being particularly close to her even when we did used to frequently communicate, I decided to delete her.

I felt badly about it for a minute, because I grew up at a time when friends were people you knew face to face, and “unfriending” someone was a serious thing. But back then, being friends with someone was also a more serious thing; that’s why we mostly tended to have fewer of them then than we do now, in the age of social media.

As I recently wrote in a post, I’m getting to a point in my life at which I value quality over quantity. A lot of people don’t like me. Many people decide they don’t like me having never taken the time to get to know me. That’s up to them, of course, and I’ve gotten used to it. I still have some great people in my life who do love me for who I am and don’t mind that I speak my mind. We treat each other with basic respect and give each other the right to be heard. We don’t try to stir up drama on each other’s social media accounts or offline. And when we have something to say, we say it. We don’t do immature passive aggressive digs or make fun of each other. Those aren’t things a real friend does.

I’ve spent most of my life being discounted, belittled, berated, ignored and crapped on by people who don’t have any respect for me, some of whom were supposedly “loved ones”. Right now, things are stressful enough as it is. I figure at this point in my life, I don’t have to tolerate it anymore, especially from people I barely know. And, like I said, I’m getting pretty tired of Facebook, anyway. Maybe after we get our next dog, I’ll ditch it once and for all. Dogs are better and more genuine friends than most people are, anyway.

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