Ex, mental health, narcissists

This sentiment really resonates with me right now…

Last night, an online friend and I were chatting on Facebook instant messenger. We had started conversing on my Facebook page, offering our thoughts about the new abortion law in Texas. I had mentioned that I hate Donald Trump for his part in this… and for many other reasons. And yes, I know Trump didn’t act alone. He had a lot of help from Mitch McConnell and other MAGA asshats who just want to keep people trapped in poverty as they hypocritically lecture them about morals. But basically, Trump is the face of a lot of really horrible people who only care about themselves and everybody else can just go to Hell. That is basically the very essence of narcissism.

Yep… that’s about right. People with money will always be able to get abortions if they want or need them.

My friend had basically said that she doesn’t care about Trump enough to hate him. She sees him like she’d see a scorpion. It’s his nature to be cruel. He can’t help himself. So she doesn’t expend the energy to hate him. I, on the other hand, am not like that by nature. People irk me and I react to them more than I should. And before I knew it, our conversation had segued from Trump to Ex. I wrote:

I understand that mindset [of not caring enough about Trump to hate him]. I just can’t help myself. But there are people I dislike as much or more than Trump, like the Ex. Every time I try to feel compassion for her, remembering that she’s mentally ill, I am reminded that she stole from her own children, sexually abused my husband, and turns people close to her into her slaves. I just really hate narcissists.

I explained that I believe my husband’s ex wife is a narcissist. But I also think she is mentally ill. I’m not the only one. She has been diagnosed by professionals. But she’s also just a very manipulative, selfish, shitty person who has done real harm to others. Unfortunately, some good people are still struck in her sphere. There’s not much we can do for them until they help themselves. It’s an awful feeling to watch good people who are trapped, and haven’t figured out that they need to help themselves… or even that there are people who would gladly help them to help themselves. But, as they say, it is what it is.

My friend was skeptical that Ex is mentally ill. She asked me some questions about Ex, and why I believe that besides being a shitty person, she’s also got legitimate issues with mental illness. Some of it may be organic. Some may have been brought on by abuse and trauma. Some may be because she’s just a nasty person. I explained that I believe a person can be mentally ill, and they can also simply be mean. The two conditions are not mutually exclusive.

Then I PM’d my friend with some sensitive information that clarified things a bit. I didn’t go into specifics of what happened, because the specifics don’t matter. What mattered was that a few years ago, I might have simply excused Ex for being “sick” with mental illness. I can’t excuse her anymore, though, because she has done some things that are just beyond the pale and, I know they aren’t due to mental illness. In fact, she often uses mental illness as a crutch, excusing herself for being a shitty person. I didn’t find out about the personal stuff until a few years ago. When I did find out about what happened, I was absolutely livid. It forever changed my opinion about Ex– not that it was ever very high– and made me conclude that she’s plainly damaged beyond repair.

More wisdom.

The conversation with my friend continued, and she eventually took my word that Ex is probably both mentally ill, and a terrible person. But she’s not as bad as she could have been. Believe me, I have realized that she could have done more to make our lives hell. She’s no longer a threat to me personally, but she’s still a threat to Bill’s daughters and the family members who aren’t clued in to what kind of a person she is.

Personally, I am at a point at which I don’t really care much about Ex. I might feel about her the way my friend feels about Donald Trump. I might see her as a reptile who just hurts people because it’s in her nature to do that. But then Bill talks to his daughter, who isn’t quite ready to go no contact. If she goes no contact, there’s a good chance she will pay a dear price. She may lose contact with other family members, for instance. So Ex remains a topic of conversation, even though personally, I could probably move on from caring or talking about her at all.

And then, I noticed something posted by another friend. I don’t know this friend as well… but what I do know is that she’s been going through something with a narcissist. She’s been posting nothing but quotes about narcissism lately. I mostly don’t notice her posts, because I’m not big on posting quotes and memes without explaining the context. But every once in awhile, she posts a gem. Last night, she posted the below image.

This sentiment really resonates with me right now.

For most of my life, I have been trained to tolerate dysfunction. I’ve been conditioned to ignore bad behavior and be “nice” at all costs, so as not to upset the apple cart. I’m not as good at ignoring bad behavior as some people are. I do have a bit of a temper, and I will lose it when people go too far. Sometimes, when I feel like I can’t be assertive, I’ll be passive aggressive, which isn’t a good solution. But, for the most part, I do try to avoid conflict, and sometimes I give people too much power. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and will sometimes excuse them when they shouldn’t be excused. Or, I simply put up with bad stuff from people when I should let it, and them, go.

We’re living in some incredible times. The past five years have been awesomely hard for many people. Bill and I have been mostly fortunate, mostly because we haven’t been living in the United States. But we have been watching the turmoil from afar, and that has been very stressful and worrisome. I’ve found that living in Germany has given me some empathy for people who have come to America from countries where there’s a lot of strife. Bill and I are not in Germany illegally, but it’s still not our home. We love living over here, and we’re not in a hurry to leave. But we still have friends and family who are dealing with the strife as we look on from abroad.

Living in another country has its challenges, although things are pretty good for us. I’m not stupid enough to compare the United States with Afghanistan or El Salvador or Syria or Honduras… or any other place where things are just horrifying. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is plenty horrifying, though… and it takes energy to process it and what it might mean for the future. Why should I let some low level idiot who is up to no good upset me? Especially when there really are much bigger fish to fry? They don’t care about me. Why should I care about them?

I don’t have the energy or stamina to put up with people who deliberately cause chaos, especially if I don’t have an investment in them, and especially when the chaos is over something really petty or insignificant. At this point in my life, I don’t have a lot invested in most other people. It’s probably because I do live in another country. I haven’t seen most of my family since 2014. I haven’t seen friends in that long, either. The ones I’ve made in Germany, by and large, aren’t real friends. They are friendly for a short amount of time, then disappear. So why should I tolerate any disrespect from them? Why should I let them upset me?

Of course, it’s probably in my nature to get upset. Just like I can’t see Donald Trump as a mere scorpion, I can’t help but be irritated by people who go out of their way to be manipulative, disrespectful, or just plain mean. I react more than I should, but lately, I’ve been trying to learn to let things go. I’ve been making a concerted effort not to get into it with people… especially people I don’t know. People who don’t care at all about me aren’t worth the tears. Peace is important, and I am as entitled to it as anyone is. So, instead of addressing stuff that I know will turn into something dramatic, I just quietly take out the trash.

As I was telling my friend last night, there are some people in the world that want to deny you your vote. Yes, some people literally want to deny you your vote in political matters, but I’m also talking about your vote in interpersonal situations. Like, for instance, when Ex unilaterally decided to have Christmas at my in-laws’ house, and demanded that I show up there for two days of hell during the biggest holiday of the year. She never asked me what I thought of the plan. I was simply expected to show up and shut up, forfeiting my right to enjoy Christmas.

Well… I realized then that I had a vote. I had a right to vote “no” to her Christmas plan, and stay home. Yes, there was a price to be paid for voting that way. She decided to punish everybody else for my choice. On the other hand, those people– most of whom were adults– almost chose to accept her “punishment” and disrespect. What they really should have done was tell her to fuck off and kick her out of their lives. It’s hard to do that when kids are involved… I know that. But, even in that situation, there were choices that could have been made. Bill had the right to take the Ex to court, for instance. Or, the in-laws could have told her and #3 to get a hotel room. Or they could have refused to host her little drama altogether. In some way, they could have REFUSED to tolerate her bullshit and just plain not shown up or stuck around for it.

I’m sorry if this post doesn’t make sense. It makes sense to me. As I have said before, I think the universe often gives us multiple chances to learn valuable lessons. This is one of those times. I got a lesson last week, as a matter of fact.

Last week, I got involved in some petty dramas that upset me quite a bit more than they should have. I was upset and frustrated, when I should have been enjoying the Black Forest, which was genuinely beautiful. The people who were causing the strife weren’t people I’m close to or care about. I was simply indulging them and giving them a lot more air time than they deserved. I’ve done that for too many people… Ex included. The vast majority of people are simply not worth the consideration.

I don’t like blocking, unfriending, or even unfollowing people… and I mostly don’t like it when people do that to me (although there are times when it was actually a mutual decision… they just acted first). But– I realize we all have our limits, and X amount of energy. The older you get, the more you realize that time and energy are precious. So it makes sense to spend those valuable commodities on people and issues that truly deserve them.

People like “Dick”, the wine group saboteur, Ex, Trump, and any number of other people with whom I can’t reasonably collaborate or cooperate, simply aren’t worth my time, energy, or attention. They don’t appreciate the sacrifice. And so, today I’m going to try to make a concentrated effort to kick those people out of my life as much as possible. I already feel a lot better having dumped a few of those folks… kind of like I did this morning, purging yesterday’s shit from my system.

And now… Noyzi and Arran are telling me it’s time for a walk. So I’m off to blow off some steam. Hope you have a good Friday… and as my friend Wilbur sings, “Don’t let life chew the sweet out of you.”

“Itty bitty problems” aren’t worth the stress. This song is non-sensical, but it makes me laugh.

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condescending twatbags, divorce, domestic violence, Ex

Promoting the myth of “one big happy family”…

I’ve been a subscriber of The Atlantic since last year. I do read a lot of the articles. In fact, I read more of The Atlantic than I do a lot of the other periodicals to which I am subscribed. However, over the past year I’ve noticed a few things.

First off, a lot of the articles are recycled repeatedly on Facebook. Secondly, they keep nagging me to turn auto-renew on, even though I clearly made a conscious decision to disable it (big surprise– auto-renew is turned on by default). In their emails pleading with me “not to miss an issue”, they point out that they’ll tell me before they charge me, and I always have the choice to disable auto-renew. If that’s the case, why not just let me make that choice for myself and leave me the fuck alone about it? And thirdly, so many of The Atlantic’s articles are incredibly depressing, outright ridiculous, and/or overly and annoyingly “woke”. I’m not sure if I will resubscribe when my current subscription ends next month, but the emails pleading for me to let them automatically take my money are off putting.

Reading The Atlantic the other day kind of led to yesterday’s slow news day on my blog. I kind of had to take a mental health day and just write a book review. I went a little nuts on Tuesday. It started with the cannelloni I decided to make for lunch. I wanted some red wine to go with it, even though I usually try not to imbibe when Bill isn’t home. Well… I started enjoying the wine, then I got online and read an article in The Atlantic. It was another one of Lori Gottlieb’s Dear Therapist columns, dated from June 2019. The piece was entitled “Dear Therapist: I Can’t Stand My Fiancée’s Ex-Husband”. The sub title-explanation was, “He wants to take pictures with her and their daughter like they’re still one happy family—and I want him to stop.” Below is the letter in the article:

Dear Therapist,

I am engaged to be married to a wonderful woman who has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband. They share joint custody. A major contributing factor in her decision to end their marriage was her ex’s controlling nature. Even now, after being divorced for more than two years, he tries to control her life.

One of the ways he tries to do this is by insisting on taking pictures of the three of them at every function where they are all present. First day of school, graduations, etc.—he has to have pictures taken of himself with my fiancée and their daughter as if they are still one big happy family.

Since the divorce, he has gotten engaged as well. I can only assume his fiancée must find these odd “not-a-family pictures” as strange as my fiancée and I do. The sole reason we haven’t shut him down when he insists on them is that we think maybe it is a nice thing for the little girl to have pictures of herself with her mom and dad. But we dread every event when we know he is going to expect this.

Will it do the daughter any harm to stop him the next time he starts insisting on this  awkward situation?

Lori Gottlieb’s advice to the letter writer who can’t stand his fiancee’s ex husband was to cooperate for the sake of the child. She explained that she has had many children of divorce in her office who have lamented about how their parents didn’t get along. She evidently sees nothing wrong with the letter writer’s ex husband insisting on family pictures, even though both his fiancee and the ex husband have found new partners and the fiancee, apparently, doesn’t like the forced picture taking either. I do think the letter writer is pretty classy for realizing that the photos with both parents might be nice for the daughter. Hopefully, it will mean that he doesn’t try to replace his soon to be stepdaughter’s father. Sounds to me like bio dad isn’t about to let that happen. I can’t blame bio dad for that, but I also don’t think bio dad should be pressuring his ex to do something she’s not comfortable with doing, for the sake of pushing a “one big happy family” myth.

Those of you who know me at all, might know that I automatically sympathize with the letter writer. I didn’t even have to read the guy’s letter to sympathize. Ex pulled that “one big happy family” bullshit on Bill, too… I would include myself in that comment, but she never asked or even considered how I would feel about pushing that narrative. And that was just one of MANY reasons why, over 18 years after my wedding day, I still can’t stand her and don’t want to be associated with her. I have very good reasons for not being able to stand her. At the very top of the list is the fact that my husband saw one of his daughters last year for the first time since 2004!

That’s right. She categorically denied Bill visitation for years while she happily took $2550 a month from him for three children– one of whom wasn’t even his kid (she denied eldest son access to his father, too). Early in our marriage, she tried to strong arm Bill into naming her the beneficiary of life insurance policies valuing $1,000,000, even though he was paying her about half his salary in child support and had already provided $500,000 in life insurance coverage to her. She told vicious lies about him (and me) to the children and even tried to turn his own parents against him. She also abused him in ALL ways– mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, sexually… you name it, she probably did it. He still bears the scars from the physical abuse. Through it all, my husband has been extraordinarily classy. To this day, he doesn’t trash talk his ex wife, although he does commiserate with his younger daughter about her. It turns out she treats her kids as badly as she does her husbands.

I, on the other hand, have absolutely no qualms about trash talking Ex. She totally deserves it, and I make no apologies for despising her. But it didn’t start out that way. Back in 2002, when I was blissfully ignorant about her, I imagined myself being kind and patient and understanding toward Ex and the children. I wanted to be a good stepmother, loving to Bill’s children and sharing access to him with his kids. I didn’t think I’d be friends with Ex, but I thought maybe we could be civil. I really try to be civil to most people unless they give me a good reason not to be. I encouraged Bill to stay involved with his daughters. I hoped and expected he’d visit them and be part of their lives. I hoped and expected I would be part of their lives, too, in whatever way. In those days, I probably would have been among the naive, glibly telling people in step situations that they must always do everything for the child’s sake, no matter what.

But, as some of my more regular readers know, I’ve only met Bill’s daughters once, back in 2003. I had no influence on their lives, because I wasn’t allowed to be part of their lives. I could have seen them at Christmas in 2004, which was when Bill last saw them together. That last meeting was, unfortunately, a trap, although Ex had tried to frame as a way to show the children that we’re “all one big happy family”. After that Christmas, Ex completely cut off access to the children and Bill lost contact with them for years. Yes, he could have tried going to court, and he did speak to a lawyer about doing that. But in those days, he simply didn’t have the money or the time to devote to child custody hearings. After his divorce, Bill was saddled with a bankruptcy and a foreclosure, and with the kids on the other side of the country, there was no way he could fight without courting financial and professional ruin– two conditions that would not have made him look good to a family court judge, anyway. It probably also would have ruined our marriage, because unlike Ex, Bill would have allowed his daughters total access to their mom. And we would have been fighting with her constantly.

As it stands now, only Bill’s younger daughter is speaking to him. We both feel fortunate that this happened– because for a long time, we never thought it would. And, personally, I had also gotten to the point at which I was trying not to care anymore and just wanted them to leave us alone. Of course, now I’m glad younger daughter is in contact with Bill. She’s turned out to be a good person. Older daughter remains estranged and, at this point, I’m beginning to think that’s the way it will always be. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

Bill had told me when we were dating that his ex wife could “rip me to shreds”. I kind of laughed at that… and it didn’t turn out to be true. I never let her get close enough to me to be able to “rip me to shreds.” I’m not afraid of her. I think she’s a pathetic loser, and I am pissed off that she was able to do the damage she’s done and continues to do. I’m truly sorry that she was abused as a child and is mentally ill, but that does NOT give her the right to harm other people And the fact that she has done SO MUCH HARM to SO MANY PEOPLE means that I can’t stand her, and will NOT cooperate with her, EVER. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my stance about Bill’s ex wife. She’s not a good person. Fortunately, the girls are now grown women, and I no longer have to worry about pushing the “one big happy family” myth for their sakes.

Anyway… on Tuesday, as I read that article, I visited the comment section and wrote, “Can’t blame him. There’s a reason they’re exes. I can’t stand my husband’s ex wife, either… actually, that is a massive understatement.”

I knew the reaction to my comment was probably going to be negative. I did immediately get one angry emoji. That person apparently blocked me, too. Oh fucking well.

But then I got this comment from some guy named Steve, who wrote… “but if your husband has kids with her, please encourage and support him in being civil for the sake of the children. Being a stepparent that appears against the children’s mother is going to make everything, including your relationship with the kids, much more difficult and stressful for everyone.”

Oh please. This tired screed again? So I responded to the guy, more aggressively than maybe I should have. I won’t lie. I found his comment pretty offensive and presumptuous. I mean, I guess one could assume that I’m the problem because I flat out stated that I can’t stand my husband’s ex. Not knowing anything about me, maybe I would make a similar assumption. It’s a human thing to do. Still, I just felt this overwhelming urge to speak up for people in my situation. It’s really tiresome when people glibly make suggestions like the one Steve made to me. Why would Steve or anyone else assume that someone who comes second or later is going to automatically be the problem when it comes to fostering relationships between divorced parents and their children? Why would he assume that I can’t stand the ex simply because she’s the ex?

There really is a reason why people become exes… and I don’t blame the letter writer for not liking the forced family photos. Those forced family photos are not a reflection of reality, and the ex husband’s insistence on taking them may, indeed, be due to his control issues. Not knowing the people involved, I can only assume they know each other and the situation better than any reader ever could. And while Lori Gottlieb does write that oftentimes, when she speaks to couples, she finds that both parties are equally to blame for problems in a relationship, there are also a lot of situations in which one partner really is a control freak or a narcissistic abuser. The ex insisting on something like taking family photos may seem very minor, in the grand scheme of things, but that might be part of a much larger issue that led to the couple’s split. In any case, I think the fiancee should have the right to veto the photos if she wants to, and no one should judge her for that. The letter writer should be supportive and understanding, no matter what his fiancee chooses to do.

I also agree that divorced couples with children should do their best to work together whenever possible. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be civilized and occasionally “take one for the team”. But when people split up, they should not be expected to promote a false “happy family” image for the child’s sake. If they can do so realistically, that’s one thing. But it sounds like in the letter writer’s situation, at least two of the adults aren’t comfortable with promoting the charade. Their opinions should be respected, too.

Perhaps against my better judgement, I ended up explaining some of my situation to Steve. I’ll admit, my responses were pretty angry– remember, I’m currently lonely, stressed out, and at that point, had been drinking wine. Steve’s off the cuff “advice” had made me angry, because it’s the kind of useless shit I’ve been hearing for years. I’m tired of people assuming I’m the problem, simply because I’m not the mom and I happened to come second. I would have been delighted to have worked with my husband’s ex wife, if she had been similarly willing to cooperate. Unfortunately, that was not how the situation was when the girls were minors. She’s still spinning tales, and taking advantage of anyone who allows her to, and apparently, getting away with it… although younger daughter, at least, has figured her out and doesn’t want her near her children.

When I responded to Steve, I was thinking of the letter writer, as well as all of the other people I know who are in this very same boat. I know my personal story is probably kind of extraordinary. Most people’s exes aren’t as horrifying as Bill’s ex wife is. Most people are in a position to be able to enforce visitation rights, at the very least. Or their exes realize that by denying their children access to their natural parent (as long as there isn’t a damned good reason for them NOT to be), they are hurting the children. On the other hand, I do know some people who are dealing with truly awful, manipulative, controlling, abusive exes… and the people– especially the women– who subsequently get involved with them often end up being labeled as “wicked”, “homewrecker”, or “obstructive”, or they have to endure rude assumptions and questions like “Are you the reason they got divorced?”

Steve and I went back and forth a few times. He turned out to be a pretty okay guy, and I even ended up thanking him, because in the end, he was ultimately understanding and kind. And now that I’m reading my responses to him, sans wine, I realize that I was a bit triggered and, perhaps, more hostile than I should have been. The truth is, things are pretty stressful right now. Bill is on an extended TDY, so I don’t have anyone to talk to, other than online. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent weeks alone, but doing this routine during a pandemic, in a foreign country, and after having been “locked down” for months, is very trying.

I do know things could be worse. Bill is not in a war zone with a narcissist; he isn’t regularly fighting with his ex wife; we are both healthy; and we have plenty of money to pay our bills. I know there are many people out there who would laugh at me and tell me to get over myself. But even though I know things aren’t really that bad and have historically been worse, that doesn’t change the fact that the other day, it was like I’d run into a perfect storm of triggers that got me pretty wound up. The truth is, I kind of exploded… then imploded.

I ended up going to bed early on Tuesday, after a tense and very brief– and incoherent– chat with Bill. We had a much better chat last night and I apologized for the state I was in on Tuesday. He was understanding, as usual, reminding me that this is a “stressful time”. And it is… the boredom, loneliness, and hopelessness of the past fourteen months have taken their toll. It doesn’t help that my husband, who is half vaccinated, is on yet another business trip lasting weeks. I feel like we’re separated. There is a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, though. In a few weeks, we’ll both be fully vaccinated, and it looks like the TDYs from hell may be over for awhile. And maybe we can do something enjoyable and spend some money on a trip somewhere. Hope springs eternal.

Anyway… I know I should avoid comment sections for the sake of my blood pressure and mental health. But, if I didn’t read comments, I probably wouldn’t have enough material to blog every day. Other people’s reactions and perceptions can make for fertile content mining. I also know that there are people out there who were glad I spoke up about that fake “one big happy family” falsehood. For a lot of us in these step relationships, that just isn’t reality… and I don’t think we do good when we try to present it that way.

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mental health, psychology, social media

Triggered…

After writing yesterday’s lofty post, I found myself a bit triggered last night. When I say “triggered”, I mean I melted down in tears. It’s been a long while since I last did that. Those who have known me awhile might be surprised that I had trouble crying. I used to cry at everything. Now, it’s somehow physically difficult for me to break down in tears. It’s like I’ve mostly lost the ability. I noticed it when I was taking antidepressants. When I stopped taking them, I still couldn’t cry like I used to. It’s mostly a good thing, although it is a bit curious for me. At least I no longer have embarrassing hyperventilation episodes, I like I used to.

So what made me melt down? It was something pretty dumb, actually. I’m sure a lot of people in military communities would laugh at me and call me a snowflake. It all started over a spam email and trying to make conversation.

I got bored yesterday and posted that I just got spam for treating “ED”. ED, for your edification, is the current euphemism for erectile dysfunction. As a woman, I don’t have a problem with erectile dysfunction. “ED” is also a euphemism for eating disorders. Some people with eating disorders name them– they use names like ED, Ana (anorexia), or Mia (bulimia) as code for the eating disorder, which has become almost like a person. It’s basically like a voice in the head, telling its victim what to do, berating them, calling them disgusting, weak, or fat. People refer to them by those names online a lot. It’s one way to disguise what they’re writing about in forums or chat groups.

Anyway, I had posted that I got spam for getting rid of my ED. A friend didn’t know what ED was, so I explained– it’s either a euphemism for erectile dysfunction or eating disorders. Somehow, she ended up cracking that, for sure, I didn’t have a problem with an eating disorder. All of a sudden, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

I know she didn’t mean any harm, but that comment took me back to a really bad place. What she doesn’t know is that for years, I did have issues with eating disorders. It wasn’t obvious to most people. I never “looked” the part highlighted in movies of the week back in the 80s and 90s. I certainly was never hospitalized for it, nor did any I visit a doctor to talk about it at length. Actually, one of the main reasons I don’t go to doctors is because of this issue, which has haunted me since I was about eleven years old.

Most people don’t know that there are more than two eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are just the best known ones because they are so dramatic and potentially deadly. But there are others… like binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating and orthorexia (hyperfocus on “clean” or healthy eating), as well as damaging behaviors. Then there’s the catchall term, EDNOS- eating disorder not otherwise specified. There is no specific “look” for someone with an eating disorder. You don’t have to be super skinny to have one. You don’t have to have scars on your knuckles or rotting teeth, blood pressure that bottoms out, blotchy, dry skin, or unusually thick hair growing on your body. Not everyone who has an ED has anorexia or bulimia, and it doesn’t always lead to severe medical consequences that are obviously related to the disorder.

I probably could have taken that comment from my friend as a teaching moment, but I was too mortified and humiliated. Aside from that, she’s a lot older than I am. What made things worse is that I know she didn’t mean to be hurtful. So there I was, sobbing at the table, talking to Bill about these really old issues that I thought were mostly gone. They aren’t totally gone, though. They always lurk in the shadows, popping up like a bad case of shingles when my guard is down.

I remember hearing comments from the people who had created me… supposedly the people who should have been my biggest supporters. My dad touching my back and saying, “You have some fat that you need to lose.” My mom looking at me in disgust, saying “I wish you would lose some weight. My dad calling me names like “hog”. My mom pleading with me, telling me she’d buy me a new wardrobe if I’d lose twenty pounds. The night before my wedding, my grandmother, whom everyone adored, looking at me in my wedding gown and saying, “Oh, so you do have a waist, after all.” or comparing me to another relative’s very obese ex wife. Or my sister telling me that I’d never been the “ideal” size and encouraging me to do sit ups and go jogging because once I stopped growing, I would get fat.

I’d hear them from medical professionals, once I was an adult. The very first (and only OB-GYN) I have ever managed to visit was an Air Force doctor who told me I was going to gain weight in Armenia, as I sat trembling in her office, having been tortured and traumatized by her oversized speculum. I was a virgin at the time… felt too unattractive to date anyone. She confirmed it by making comments about my weight. She asked me if I wanted a prescription for birth control and sent me on my way. I was absolutely horrified and humiliated by that exam. It was twelve years before I had another, that time done by a much kinder physician’s assistant. And it’s been fourteen years since that second exam.

I even heard them from mental health professionals. One doctor put me on a medication used for migraines and seizures, not because I had either of those problems, but because one of the side effects is appetite suppression. I remember him telling me, with glee, that the medicine would make me forget to eat. It did suppress my appetite, but I didn’t lose any weight. It made some things taste weird and made me disinterested in most other things besides food. Bill didn’t like the way that drug affected me, and every time I went to get the prescription filled, I had to get the third degree from the pharmacist, since I was also taking Wellbutrin, which is contraindicated for people who get seizures because it can cause them. I don’t have seizures, but the fact that I was also getting medicine used to treat seizures would raise red flags. My psychiatrist just thought I was too fat and wanted to fix me with a drug.

Or, when I lived in Armenia, I’d hear them from perfect strangers who wanted to sell me Herbalife. In the late 1990s, Herbalife had come to Armenia, and there were many people on the streets trying to peddle it. They saw me, a foreigner, with an obvious “problem” that they could fix with a dubious product from a notorious MLM scheme. They’d approach me with before and after pictures, thinking I’d be dying to buy from them, since I was an American who clearly had money (NOT) and just needed a magic bullet cure for my grotesque body. I’d tell them to fuck off, shaking my head at the intrusion.

The way some people talked when I was younger, I realize I must look hideous today. But I wasn’t a particularly fat kid, and I still got those comments back in those days. I was in good shape from riding bikes and horses, and I was dieting a lot then. I would go days without eating, trying to muster inspiration from books and movies. Sometimes I’d faint, or become really hyper bitchy or moody. But I didn’t have a terrible figure, even though I was obsessed with dieting at the time. It probably came from watching my sisters, who were also obsessed with calories, jogging, and slimming down. And for what? Men?

I gave up those behaviors years ago. They probably mostly stopped when I was in graduate school, living on my own. Then, I met Bill and he made me feel beautiful. He doesn’t care that I’m not the “ideal” size. He loves me for who I am. Moreover, I look around, and I see that many people look like me. So I just kind of tossed away that issue… and it stayed mostly buried until last night, when someone made a comment that came across as unkind, even though it wasn’t meant that way. She doesn’t know about my past… it’s not something I talk about very much anymore.

After I finally calmed down following my crying spell, I took a deep breath… and I saw Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He was wearing two face masks. I’ve got no quarrel with that. I know a lot of people think it’s a good thing to do in the wake of COVID-19. However, I have no desire to wear two masks myself. Despite having told myself, yesterday, not to comment with negativity, I felt compelled to post when I saw commenter after commenter leaving thumbs up and kudos for Wil Wheaton’s responsible double masking. Others were chiming in about how they double mask, too. Once again, I felt triggered, because all of the virtue signaling about double masking makes me fear for the future. Before I knew it, I typed:

“I am not wearing double masks. Forget it.”

I know I shouldn’t have. In fact, as I hit “enter”, I knew that I would get comments. Much to my surprise, there weren’t too many of them. I thought I would get bombarded with them. The first came from a friend who explains what he does. I clarified that where I live, cloth masks aren’t allowed anymore. We have to wear medical masks in Germany. In some places, not even a surgical mask will cut it. I understand that this is due to the virus and it’s a necessary step. However, I am feeling so overwhelmed by depression, anger, and hopelessness, and the overall attitude of people who feel like hyper-reaction is the best reaction… and if I am not cheerfully complying, I need criticism and “re-education”. COVID-19 has taken most of what I enjoy about living, and I’m getting ready to snap.

Then some guy wrote, “What’s your problem?”

My response to him was, “You.” He gave me a laughing emoji.

Someone else asked if I had been “forced” to wear double masks. I haven’t, but I suspect it’s coming. If I complain, I’ll get a ration of shame and shit for not getting with the program and doing my part to crush the virus.

It doesn’t matter that this lifestyle is soulcrushing and makes me wonder why I stick around in this fat, hideous, unsuitable body that so many people, some of them total strangers, feel fine commenting about… It doesn’t matter that it’s a healthy body that, at least until very recently, has taken care of me perfectly well and allowed me to do most everything I’ve wanted to do. It doesn’t matter that it makes pretty music or allows me to write this tripe in my blog. It doesn’t matter that it houses the parts of me that make people smile or even laugh. All that matters is that it’s not as beautiful as I’d like it to be… or apparently, others would like it to be. And that makes people feel like they have a license to add their opinions.

I unfollowed Wil Wheaton, not because I don’t like him or his posts, but because the crowd following him are the type to crawl up in people’s grills about things like mask wearing, and the “proper” or “best” way to do it, or any other “cause” that people like to preach about. One guy on another post wrote that he thinks pepper spray is a good way to teach the “anti-maskers” (of which I am not) to properly social distance. I thought that was an unnecessarily hostile comment, so I posted that I thought the pepper spray idea was a good one. I’d carry it for perfect strangers who feel it’s necessary to confront me about my mask wearing habits instead of practicing social distancing and staying the fuck away from me. Or really, for perfect strangers who want to confront me about ANYTHING that is not their business. Just leave me alone.

And now, Bill has made breakfast, which I will sit down to eat… even though maybe I shouldn’t. I didn’t manage to eat much dinner last night after that conversation about ED.

We’re all under a lot of stress. We all have different ways of coping. I probably need to unplug from social media. I probably need to unplug from everything. I’d like to go to a spa or enjoy a lovely meal in a restaurant… but that’s off limits. So here I sit in snowy, rainy, depressing Germany, writing about crying over an unintended slight that brought back pain that I thought was long buried. I really hope things turn around soon.

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social media

Noise I don’t need in my life right now.

In praise of “real friends”…

Last night, just before I went to bed, I read yet another derisive status update by someone I don’t know particularly well. This guy, famously or infamously known as “newnamenoah” on YouTube, has over 4000 “friends” on Facebook. People tend to love him or hate him. I’ve always mostly thought he was interesting and entertaining, with big brass balls. Here was a guy who invaded LDS temples with pinhole cameras and recorded “secret” ordinances, then posted them on YouTube.

There’s no telling how many people newnamenoah, aka Mike, has helped with his videos. He’s probably pissed off just as many people by ruining the “mystery” of the LDS temples. He’s been arrested for trespassing, too. I followed his antics for a few years, but had no personal dealings with him. I often thought he was funny, especially when he dealt with self-righteous people who wanted to tell him what to do. I had respect for his “work”, although lots of people were angry at him for exposing something they considered “sacred”.

But coronavirus has changed things. Some things have changed for the better. Some have changed for the worse. Some things have just plain changed. I think the virus has forced most people into a different lifestyle… things are topsy turvy, with people not knowing what they’re going to do about certain major issues like accessing childcare, going to school, caring for elderly parents, and paying their bills. I don’t know.

People are stressed out and pissed off. Some are depressed. Many people are frustrated and worried about the future. For some folks, this is about simple survival on the most basic level. Some people are reacting by trying to exert some form of control, whether it be by haranguing rule-breakers or rebelling against the rules. It’s causing a lot of people to be ruder than they might otherwise be, although I think Mike has pretty much always been dismissive and rude to people he doesn’t respect. Fair enough.

At this point in my life, I am very fortunate. I currently live in a country where the virus has been mostly contained, and it appears that we’re going to get to stay for awhile longer. Life is not completely normal here, but it’s close. I’ve been “locked down”, but not really because I’ve had to be. I’ve mostly decided I’d rather stay away from the risks and hassles of being out and about. But I realize that’s a privilege that many people don’t have. As fortunate as I am, though, I have found that the virus has made me a lot less tolerant of things I used to brush off with relative ease.

It’s not even so much that I’m feeling upset anymore. It’s more that I just think I fell into a path that had me putting up with stuff that I shouldn’t. A lot of shit is just that– shit. It stinks and needs to be flushed.

Prior to the virus, I tolerated things that seemed important… I put up with an abusive landlady, griping all the while, yet acquiescing when I was told I didn’t have the right to complain about the shitty way she treated Bill and me. I put up with people being “mean” to me on the Internet, when really all I had to do was unfriend or block them. I wrote many words about being upset or disappointed by people I thought were better, when I really should just expect that a lot of people are jerks and don’t have regard for other people. Just let them go and be done with it. It is what it is. Bitching about it makes me feel better temporarily, but doesn’t really change anything.

I recently wrote a post called Mask-Misanthropy. I’ve noticed a lot of people hitting it lately. I don’t know why people are reading it. Are they reading it because they agree with me that people have gotten a lot less “civilized” lately? Or are they reading it, thinking I’m a clueless “Karen” (hate that term) who needs a reality check? You know what? Who fucking cares? If you read my stuff and come away with the idea that I don’t take the virus seriously, then I must conclude that reading comprehension isn’t one of your strengths. I don’t like masks and I go out of my way to avoid wearing them. But I do so by staying home most of the time. I think that’s more effective than wearing a mask, and I’m lucky enough that I can do that. When I go out, yes, I wear the mask. I hate it, but I do comply with the rules.

The main point of the Mask-Misanthropy post is that I don’t think being rude and nasty, calling people names, being insulting, and lecturing so-called “friends” is the way to get them to cooperate. I understand that people are feeling tense and frustrated. I get that they’re scared and rightfully worried about the future. I just don’t understand how cursing at and shaming “friends” is the way to make the situation better. If someone is a “friend”, doesn’t that mean you hold them in some kind of positive esteem? How is it friendly to call your friends “morons”?

That was where I was last night as I was looking at Mike’s Facebook page. He’d written a post insulting people who are “anti-mask”. It was one of many I’d seen by him on a variety of controversial topics. He basically called them “mouth breathers”. Someone on his page took him to task for name calling. He insulted her, too. Then, I guess when she decided to unfriend him, he wrote a rant on his page about how he doesn’t lose a minute of sleep over people who unfriend him (I think he might have called them morons, but I don’t care to check). In the past, when he’s done that, I’ve laughed it off. But then it occurred to me that it must matter to him on some level, because he took the time to post about it. And what he posted was just more of the same bile.

I had absolutely nothing to do with last night’s drama. Before I unfriended him, I almost never commented on Mike’s posts. I read some of them, enjoyed a few of them, but mostly they were just “noise” on my page. A lot of his posts were about what a schmuck Donald Trump is. And I agree, Trump is a schmuck– putting it very mildly. A lot of posts were about how damaging Mormonism is. And I agree, Mormonism is pretty damaging to a lot of people. Sometimes, he posted stuff about him living his best life, which was nice to see… but he also posted about being arrested when he stepped on LDS church property. But since a lot of that shit is public, I can read it whether or not we’re “friends”. And I’m getting tired of reading angry, insulting, shaming, frustrated posts by people who paint anyone who doesn’t agree with them with a broad brush and dismiss them as “stupid mouth breathers”. It’s noise I don’t need in my life right now.

As the old song goes, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”. On the whole, I think being kind and supportive is better than being angry, derisive, and confrontational. I realize that I’m not always one to practice what I preach, but I’m working on it. I mostly try to keep my rantings to my blog, which people have to actually navigate to if they want to read. I understand the impulse to lash out at people who aren’t doing what you think they should be doing, but it seems counterintuitive to call these people “friends” if you’re going to also curse at them and call them names.

I’m finding that the stress of the coronavirus and my need for some semblance of normalcy has made me much less willing to tolerate unnecessary “noise” and drama. I’ll probably unfriend a lot more people as time goes on… or maybe, as I have been threatening, I’ll just dump Facebook altogether and become a recluse. By the way, as of yesterday, I finally lost my “orange badge of shame“. Glad it didn’t take a year.

Bill does this all the time. It drives me nuts.

Mental health is very important. There’s no point in staying physically healthy if your mind is so fucked up with depression and anxiety that you can’t enjoy your life. It’s already stressful enough reading the news every day, listening to Donald Trump speak, and realizing just how much he has fucked up the world. I don’t need the extra noise in the form of angry accusations, constant insults, and non-stop political rants. If I wanted that, I could watch Fox News.

Given that he has over 4000 friends, I doubt Mike will miss me anyway. On the other hand, having tons of friends isn’t a guarantee that unfriending won’t be wounding to some folks. Last month, I got blocked by a guy I unfriended because I didn’t want to read so much about politics. Since we didn’t actually know each other offline and we almost never engaged, I figured he wouldn’t care– although I did know he had a “friend tracker”. Boy, was I wrong! He sent me a PM, apologizing if it was something he said. Then he got all pissed off when I explained that the constant barrage of negativity was causing me mental stress. Guess he wasn’t really a friend, after all. Ditto for the woman who blocked me when I unfriended her for the same reason. I can’t say that I mind being blocked by either of them. It’s not like we were actually friendly.

A real friend wouldn’t want to cause me stress, strife, or anguish. Instead, they would wish me well. A real friend wouldn’t call me stupid, clueless, moronic, or a mouth breather. No one has really done that to me personally, but when I see things addressed to a group as a whole, it turns into an insult that includes everyone who reads or hears it. And I just don’t need it. No one does.

I often like to say good things can come out of almost any situation. Maybe one thing that will come out of the coronavirus is that it will help me streamline who I allow into my life. Real friends are rare and valuable. I’ll do my best to keep them, since I’m lucky enough to have some of them– a few are even people I have never met offline. Fake friends on Facebook are just noises I don’t need in my life. I’m going to learn to let them go sooner rather than later.

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