communication, law, mental health, Police, true crime, YouTube

I’m ORDERING you to RELAX right NOW!!!

It’s Friday, and that means it’s PARTY time! Well… not really. Bill and I aren’t big partiers. But there will be a special fest in our little village this weekend. It starts tonight and will consist of live music, a wine stand, AND a beer stand! There will also be a food truck. Hopefully, it will stop raining, so we can enjoy the fun and stay dry.

This week, I’ve been watching more cop videos on YouTube. The ones that end up on YouTube are usually somewhat interesting on some level. Like, the uploaders aren’t going to just put up a video of someone getting a speeding ticket without complaint. Most of the videos that make it to YouTube involve some misbehavior or attitude of some sort.

I have a few favorite body cam channels. I like the ones where there’s a good narrator, even if the narrator is AI. If the AI isn’t super obvious, I don’t mind it that much. I just like a good story, although some of the stories are tragic. Code Blue Cam usually has good body cam videos and a compelling storyline. Their most recent upload is quite the doozy. Just a warning… this video is definitely NSFW, mainly due to the extremely profane language the woman uses as she’s being busted for DUI. I’d share it here, but it’s age restricted.

One of Code Blue Cams less “adult” videos… I offer it just for the sake of an example.

The below video comes from Real World Police, which is another one of my favorite YouTube body cam channels. As I was watching it, I had to pause and ponder…

This dude is very profane, and it’s clear the cops aren’t on his side. They order him to “calm down”.

In the above video, the older man is very upset as he’s speaking to the police officers. He uses a lot of foul language. One of the cops says, “Calm down!” And it occurred to me, when I’m upset and someone orders me to “calm down”, it usually has the opposite effect. I asked my friends on Facebook if they are ever able to calm down when someone orders them to calm down. Almost everyone responded with a resounding “NO!”, including my former shrink– a psychologist with over 50 years of experience. He said, “It doesn’t work for anyone.”

Please note… I’m not talking about speaking to someone calmly and encouraging them to calm down. I’m talking about ORDERING them to calm down. I see this all the time in the cop videos. The police are wrestling someone to the ground, screaming at them to “stop resisting”, “calm down”, “don’t pull away”, and my personal favorite, “RELAX!” Yeah, I’m gonna relax with guys in uniforms with guns, tasers, pepper spray, and handcuffs are screaming at me and my adrenaline is pumping. Not.

I liken the order to “relax” and “calm down” by police as the same as a gynecologist telling someone to relax while they have their fingers in one of their patients’ orifices. I’m sorry if that’s shocking to some readers, but in all seriousness. One of the main reasons I’ve only had two exams done in my 51 years of life is because when I had my first “female” exam, the doctor was awful and ordered me to relax as she was hurting me. When she hurt me, I cried out, and almost fainted. She basically told me to shut up, or she wouldn’t finish the exam. I needed the exam to join the Peace Corps, so I gritted my teeth.

Then, when the OB-GYN from Hell finished the exam, she said “Well, everything looked okay, but I didn’t get the world’s best exam, because you weren’t relaxed.” Duh… I wasn’t sexually active; it was my first time getting an exam; and she was hurting me in a place where the sun doesn’t shine. And then to add insult to injury, she fat shamed me, too. 😉 How relaxing! NOT. As you can see, that experience really had a traumatic effect on me.

Dang… this one was filmed in Fayetteville, Georgia. Bill and I lived there for about sixteen months after our last Germany stint ended in 2009. I liked that town. The house we lived in was on 8 acres and it was super private! The house in this video is owned by Rick Ross, the rapper. There are many mansions in Fayetteville, Georgia.

The woman in the above video– name of Precious– is completely out of touch with reality. She asks the cops to let her walk “sexy” as she’s wearing handcuffs. She claims she’s pregnant with Rick Ross’s twins and is his wife. She also says she’s a model. This video is pretty funny, too, because as I mentioned in the above caption, I used to live in Fayetteville, Georgia, where this video was taken. This brings back some good memories for me. I did enjoy living in Fayetteville, but that was before Trump fucked up small town America.

Anyway, the woman in the video isn’t relaxed, but I give kudos to the Fayetteville Police for handling her professionally. We only had one interaction with them. It was when we brought my now 14 year old Mini Cooper– then brand new– to be inspected by the police before we could register it with Fayette County and get new tags. The cop who dealt with us was very efficient and pleasant. I can see from the many cop videos on YouTube that they aren’t always that good.

Last night, for instance, I saw a video Ring of Fire did about MAGA supporter and former Obama and Trump White House physician, Ronny Jackson, who is an actual emergency room doctor, being cussed at, thrown to the ground, and cuffed. Why? Because he was trying to help a teenaged girl in medical distress at a rodeo. I’ve seen many videos where cops have seemingly endless patience and compassion. And I’ve seen other videos where they aren’t much better than the people they arrest, and in some cases, they’re even worse! I’m not saying I like Ronny Jackson is the greatest doctor, but he’s certainly qualified to help a teenager with hypoglycemia. He shouldn’t be thrown to the ground and cuffed for helping someone.

WHAT?!! Those cops need firing, now!
“You pull away from me, you’re gonna hit the tub!” How relaxing. Then the cops yells at her, while she’s hysterical. Not saying she isn’t deserving of being arrested, but the cop shouldn’t be screaming and cursing at her. It’s understandable, but not helpful.

The above video is also a good example of why our mental health system in the United States needs a complete overhaul. That woman is in need of psychiatric care. It sounds like another cop is being more gentle with her. I can understand that dealing with someone like that is very frustrating, but screaming at people doesn’t calm them down. When they arrive at the police station, you can hear the one cop screaming at her to “calm the fuck down”… but it’s really not effective at all. People who are that “amped up” are not in the frame of mind to calm down. The best you can do is put them in a safe, quiet place and wait for them to simmer down. Barring that, Ativan works pretty well… but again, you kinda need a medical person for that.

It always fascinates me to see people ordering people to relax and calm down. That sort of defies logic, doesn’t it? When people yell at me, it makes me want to respond in kind. I never calm down when someone demands it of me. All that does is piss me off anew. When I was younger, I used to get really upset and hysterical, even to the point of hyperventilating. I haven’t had a good, full-blown anxiety attack in years, though… thank God. It’s not a nice feeling. The woman in the above video, especially, needs some compassion, even though she’s clearly broken the law and needs to answer for that. I suspect she’s mentally ill, and needs care.

One of the cops in this video says she used to be a mental health counselor. I can tell. She handles panicky Ellie very compassionately (at around the 11 minutes mark), although in her case, it didn’t work out too well. She had to get “wrapped” like a burrito.

But I also know that the police, especially in the United States, have a difficult and dangerous, yet very necessary, job. It’s not work that always attracts the best and brightest, nor is the training that great, especially in some areas. It seems like cops are trained to be very authoritative, instead of de-escalating situations. One thing I have noticed over here in Europe is that cops are more interested in non-violent interactions, and they work hard to keep things peaceful, as they also keep the peace. It helps that there aren’t so many guns, here.

I’ll leave you with this old video by Beau (Justin), of Beau of the Fifth Column, who used to train law enforcement. He makes a lot of sense, and the video isn’t distressing or violent. If you watch any of the videos in this post, I highly suggest watching this one, simply because he brings up the state of mind of the person being arrested, which is an important key point that I think a lot of people miss.

Beau (aka Justin King), once again, making a lot of sense.

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mental health, psychology

No one should ever die over spilt coffee!

The last couple of years have really been quite the mess, haven’t they? I wouldn’t be a young person in America again for anything, especially in this post pandemic hellscape. Young people are under so much pressure to make it. I remember what it was like to be young and unsure, filled with anxiety and depression, feeling like a failure, and when I was clinically depressed, actually thinking about suicide on a daily basis.

I thought I would be broke and unloved, or working in a job that I hated, desperately trying to earn enough to pay my own way. I went through this anguish for years, only to somehow find myself on a career path to a career I probably wouldn’t have loved that much. Then I met Bill, and was soon swept off that path, and into a new future that I had never, in a million years, envisioned for myself. Even after twenty years, I can’t believe this happened. I never would have thought that the answer for me was finding the right man. That’s not how I was raised AT ALL.

I’ll be honest. There are times when I still feel anxious. There are times when I am depressed. Sometimes I worry about what’s going to happen. Then I am awed by what I have… amazed, even. And I’m glad I didn’t give in to the urge to commit suicide when I was still in my 20s. Then I think to myself… if I had done that, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser about what was to come. My life would have been unfinished, like Neuschwanstein… or an incomplete novel with no ending.

You might already be wondering what’s brought on today’s musings, which some people might find a little disturbing. Well, I don’t assume anyone worries about my mental health, and there’s no reason to do that now. I’m not feeling particularly depressed today. It’s just that this morning, I read a story about yet another high achieving young woman who decided to kill herself over something that really should have been a blip on the proverbial radar.

The Washington Post ran a story today about Katie Meyer, a young woman who, by most accounts, should have been on top of the world. On February 28, 2022, 22 year old Meyer was just a few months from finishing her degree at Stanford University, where she was a soccer star and captain of the university’s soccer team. She had a 3.84 GPA, and in 2019, had helped lead the prestigious university to a national championship in soccer. She had plans to attend law school. She’d hoped to attend Stanford for law school, too.

On February 28, Katie Meyer had done seemingly normal things. She went to classes, soccer practice, and an event for the Mayfield Fellows Program, for which she had recently been selected. She had FaceTimed with her mom and sister about her spring break plans. She had emailed her mother about plane tickets she had booked. She’d never make the flight, though. February 28, 2022 was her last day of life. Katie Meyer committed suicide that day.

So what happened on February 28 that led to Katie Meyer’s untimely death? It started with spilled coffee in August 2021.

On that fateful day in August 2021, Katie Meyer was riding her bike when she somehow spilled coffee on a football player who was accused of sexually assaulting (kissing without permission) one of Katie’s teammates, who was 17 years old. Katie maintained that the coffee spilling incident was an accident. The football player, who was not identified and never faced any disciplinary charges, didn’t even complain about the spilled coffee. However, the incident was reported to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards by the dean of residential education. An investigation ensued, and apparently, for the first time in her short life, Katie Meyer was in some trouble.

The complaint against Meyer indicated that spilling the coffee on the football player had caused physical injury. It was the university’s standard practice to review the incident and determine whether or not Katie should be disciplined. Meanwhile, the incident regarding the football player’s uninvited kiss of the soccer player was also reported to the Title IX office. However, that office determined that the criteria for investigating the kissing incident were not met.

In September, Meyer spoke with a university administrator about the coffee incident. She expressed how distressed she was by the investigation. Two months after that meeting, Meyer provided a formal statement about the incident, again explaining that the disciplinary process had caused her great worry and stress. She feared the incident would derail her career plans and ultimately even ruin her life. According to the Washington Post:

“My whole life I’ve been terrified to make any mistakes,” she wrote. “No alcohol, no speeding tickets, no A- marks on my report cards. Everything had to be perfect to get in and stay at Stanford. I suffer from anxiety and perfectionism, as so many female athletes do. We know all too well that in professional settings women have everything to lose and have to work twice as hard to prove that they are qualified and professional, and any mistake is magnified, any attitude of assertiveness is demonized.”

Man… I can remember feeling like that, too. And I am definitely NOT Stanford material. So often we think of high achievers like Katie Meyer– young, beautiful, brilliant, athletic– richly gifted in almost every way. We think of how lucky they are. We never stop to think about the incredible pressure they’re under and how much pressure they put on themselves. It’s easy for me, at age 50, to sit here and think this is ridiculous that a young woman like Katie Meyer– who seemingly had EVERYTHING going for her– would kill herself over spilled coffee.

I empathize with Katie. I remember very well being young and scared, and feeling like any little mistake I made would permanently ruin my life. I also felt like I needed to excel when I was very young. I felt like it was expected of me, not just from my parents and other elders in my life, but also and especially from myself. Unlike Katie, I didn’t excel at that much. But, like her, I felt like I really needed to achieve, and if I didn’t, my life would not be worth living.

I remember working as a temp in the admissions office at the College of William & Mary, where extremely talented, bright, high achieving young people attended school. I read their essays, letters of recommendation, and report cards, and filed them away, along with lots of other items they sent in to convince the admissions committee that they were worthy to matriculate at William & Mary in the fall of 1998. So many of them seemed desperate to achieve… and unaware that there are so many ways to succeed at life. In 1998, I was 26 years old, a graduate of a less prestigious college, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I felt like a loser, even though I had already done a lot. Depression and anxiety will do that to a person, especially when they’re young.

I was fortunate, though, because I found a really kind and understanding therapist who helped me. I took medication that helped even out my thinking. I took voice lessons, which were relaxing and therapeutic for me… a form of expression that was easy for me and brought positive regard. Gradually, I started to see other pathways out of that hell. It took some time, but I finally moved past that dreaded anxiety ridden state of youth that causes young, ambitious, talented people to consider suicide.

In Katie’s situation, several months passed, and Katie apparently figured the trouble had blown over. She started to relax and look forward to her bright future. But then she got that email at about 7:00 pm on February 28th. She was alone, and when she read the email about disciplinary action toward her, she panicked. Hours later, she was found unresponsive in her dorm room. The email from the Office of Community Standards, informing her that there was a hold on her degree and she could be removed from the university due to the spilled coffee incident, was still open on her computer.

Apparently, Katie had not responded to a February 25th email indicating that more information had been added to her file regarding the spilled coffee incident. The Office of Community Standards had requested more exonerating evidence from Katie by February 28th. She was a very busy student, though, and had evidently missed the email. Since the supporting evidence had never arrived, the university sent the after hours email that left Meyer so distraught that she took that last devastating action.

Katie Meyer’s parents are now suing Stanford University for wrongful death. They maintain that the university had acted negligently and recklessly in the way they handled her disciplinary case. According to the Washington Post:

“Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, and the reckless nature and manner of submission to Katie, caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,” said the complaint, filed last week in Santa Clara County Superior Court. “Katie’s suicide was completed without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while alone in her room without any support or resources.”

For its part, Stanford University is vehemently denying responsibility for Katie Meyer’s death. In an official statement to the Stanford community, university officials wrote:

The Stanford community continues to grieve Katie’s tragic death and we sympathize with her family for the unimaginable pain that Katie’s passing has caused them. However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university is responsible for her death. The complaint brought by the Meyer family unfortunately contains allegations that are false and misleading.

I don’t pretend to know what actually happened in this situation. The description of the coffee spilling incident is not very well explained in the article. Did she go up and hurl a cup of hot coffee at the football player while he was kissing Katie’s teammate? Or was she carrying a Starbucks while riding a bike and hit a bump in the road, causing it to fly from her hands? I can’t tell from the description in the newspaper article. However, whatever actually occurred with the football player, I do know that it should not have led a 22 year old woman with a very bright future to kill herself. I am so sorry for Katie’s parents and other friends and loved ones. But I’m not sure that the university is necessarily at fault, either. I would imagine that most people would not have reacted in such an extreme way to that email.

Extremely competitive universities like Stanford University do attract the best and brightest, and a lot of those students are extreme perfectionists, perhaps even to a pathological level. Maybe at a school like Stanford, it makes sense to be very careful about delivering that kind of bad news– the kind that might threaten a highly achieving young person’s future. However, Katie was 22 years old, which made her a grown woman. She was about to embark on a career in law. I would imagine that she would face some pretty threatening and stressful challenges in that arena, too. It sounds to me like Katie really needed mental health treatment. Perhaps the bigger question is, does Stanford University support and encourage students to seek out mental health services when they need them? Do they try not to penalize students for seeking help when they need it?

This is a topic near and dear to me, because my husband has spent most of his adult life in the military, in which a lot of lip service is paid about people seeking mental healthcare when they need it. However, those who do go to therapy and take medication often wind up being penalized when they lose security clearances or get reassigned to jobs that mess up their career aspirations. A lot of tragedies have occurred because of this policy, that punishes people for seeking help. Hell, in the military, a servicemember can wind up being “punished” even if a family member needs special services for their mental health or educational needs. See my rant about EFMP for more on that.

More recently, I read a Washington Post article about students at Yale University who were kicked out of school for having mental health issues. One student, Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum, had a very hard time dealing with attending Yale during the pandemic. She needed help, but instead was driven to suicide. The article highlighted other stories of high achieving students being forced to withdraw from Yale after they needed psychiatric care. Some of those students did go on to kill themselves, because they felt like they’d failed and Yale simply wanted to “get rid of them”. Yale University also famously falsely accused a young woman of having an eating disorder and threatened to kick her out of school because she couldn’t gain two pounds. I wrote about Frances Chan, the “fake” anorexic, in my old blog, and since her story is relevant to this post, I will repost my 2014 article about her case today.

Anyway… I think it’s very sad that there’s a population of very bright, promising, young people who feel so overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed that they can no longer bear to go on. I thought it was hard enough in the 90s, when I was staring down the rest of my life, wondering what was going to become of me. At 22, I should have been on the brink of the best time in my life. But instead, I was scared, anxious, depressed, and occasionally suicidal. I feel fortunate that I managed to get through that time. I realize that not everyone can do what I managed to do. They lack the time, the money, the will, or they simply feel like they aren’t deserving. Some of them feel like they should be able to get over mental health issues by themselves. They’ve been taught that they have to be superhuman. But no one is superhuman.

It’s time that Americans stopped stigmatizing people who have mental health issues, especially when they are among the best and brightest. It’s time treatment for mental healthcare was prioritized, and made easy to afford and access. It’s time we stopped ruining people’s lives– or making them think their lives are ruined– simply because they made a mistake or got in some trouble or experience a temporary lapse in mental health due to stress, physical illness, or some other minor setback.

Life shouldn’t be so serious… or so hard, especially for young men and women on the brink of adulthood. No one should ever die over spilt coffee.

My condolences to Katie Meyer’s friends and family members. She sounds like she was an extraordinary person.

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Germany, mental health, modern problems, narcissists, YouTube

Is America really as crazy as it looks from over here?

I recently mentioned that I stumbled across a couple of “Karen” channels on YouTube. And, in spite of my disdain for the derogatory hijacking of the name, “Karen”, some of the videos I’ve seen are like train wrecks. I was especially shocked by the video below…

This video actually shows several incidents, but the one that disturbs me the most is the one captured in the still above. It starts at 8:17.

As I was watching this video yesterday, I literally shrank back against the headboard on my bed. I’m disturbed by the sheer vitriol and rage pouring out of these people. Yes, the woman captured above seems angrier than the guy she’s talking to, but both are extremely distressed. I’m surprised this didn’t become a violent confrontation. Below are a few screenshots.

We do have some angry people in Europe, and there have been some unfortunate incidents of violence and rage reported. But it seems so much worse in the United States, especially given how many people own weapons. In fact, as I was watching this, I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I imagined the other people in that neighborhood being forced to listen to, or actually witness in person, this rage filled argument that was filmed and put on YouTube.

Later, I called my mom and we both lamented how crazy things seem lately. I swear, America is not like it was when I was growing up. People are acting like maniacs. I’m sure much of it is due to our political situation and the terrible polarization that has occurred over the past few years. The pandemic, and all of the new rules and restrictions don’t help. People are very stressed out and worried, and it seems like some people feel like the world is about to end.

I really think a lot of this behavior is driven by the pandemic. People resent the rules and restrictions, and the “holier than thou” and “entitled” behaviors that are prompted in response to the pandemic. Some people seem to have a very hard time adapting, and it doesn’t help that there’s all this doom and gloom news. Several of the incidents captured in the above video are about the mask rules and people not wanting to adhere to them.

I watched a video by Dr. Ramani yesterday. It was about “narcissists and transportation rage”– people who are freaking out on airplanes or in airports. She seems to think that the people who act like this are narcissists. I’m sure a lot of them are narcissists, but the sheer volume of people who are acting like this is disturbing. Are they ALL narcissists? Or are they stressed and scared people who have completely lost their ability to cope?

I know that some people are entitled assholes no matter what. But is everyone who is wigging out lately really a narcissist? I think everyone has a limit, and recently, Americans seem to be proving that their tolerances for frustration and adversity are not as high as they should be. On the other hand, life was pretty difficult even before the pandemic.

I remember having to work several part time jobs with no benefits just to get my bills paid. I remember being scared of the day when I couldn’t meet my own financial demands. I don’t even have children to worry about. Consider that so many people my age are dealing with their aging parents and children in college, or maybe they waited until later to have children and had one with “special needs” of some sort.

Those are stressful conditions under normal circumstances. Add in the pandemic and the hassles and fears associated with it, as well as inflation, lack of affordable housing, and the inability to take a vacation without being constantly reminded of the pandemic. Add in the challenges of taking care of younger children when schools close or go to distance learning, while meanwhile, your parents have dementia or require help taking care of their needs. Sometimes people just freak out because it all becomes too much. And then they get filmed and put on YouTube, where people mock them.

In some of these videos, both parties are acting atrociously. It’s obvious some of these people are fed up and stressed out, but some seem to be permanently unhinged and uncivilized.

I realize I am very lucky on so many levels. From where I sit, Germany is not nearly as chaotic as the US is right now. People are sick of the pandemic here, and there’s definitely some grumpiness. But I haven’t seen or heard of nearly as many people losing their shit as I have in the United States. Of course, in Germany, filming people and putting them online can lead to legal problems in a heartbeat. As a general rule, Germans are big on privacy.

My mom is 83 years old and still is pretty good health. She has enough money to take care of her needs, at least at this point. She is happy living alone, although she did say that she is probably going to move closer to my sister in North Carolina within the next year or so. But that’s mainly because the assisted living apartment where she’s lived since 2009 is getting too expensive. There’s another complex near Chapel Hill, where my sister lives, that is less pricey. She said she has to wait for someone to die before she moves. Apparently, there’s a long waiting list.

I know I need to watch some different videos on YouTube to change the algorithms of what ends up on my suggested videos list. I also need to change the algorithms on Facebook. Somehow, I get posts from Reddit Ridiculousness, where people share AITA (Am I The Asshole) posts. These posts usually consist of stories about people in certain situations that cause discomfort and questions about whether or not someone’s behavior ventures into “asshole” territory.

I will admit, some of the stories are pretty entertaining and/or interesting. But it’s hard to gauge whether or not someone is an asshole based only on an Internet anecdote, because you can only judge them by objective standards and whatever details they include in their stories. Not everyone has a way with words, so it can be difficult to get an accurate picture of a situation. You also have different personalities that come into play. Some people are better than others at hiding who they are, and some people have abrasive personalities, but aren’t necessarily assholes.

I know this, because many people assume I’m an asshole because of my many ventings about Ex. They assume she’s a “normal” person. I’m gratified, though, because now younger daughter talks to Bill and confirms that we aren’t the crazy ones. Aside from that, I’ve shared some of Ex’s public postings with a couple of friends, both of whom have expressed shock and dismay. If you don’t know her backstory, you’d never know that a lot of what she posts is a facade to try to look good. But then she’ll slip some things in that don’t go unnoticed by the astute. Like, for instance, her constant thinly veiled Twitter attempts to wangle money from celebrities.

Anyway… it’s been bizarre to sit over here and watch some of this stuff from afar. I am an American, but some of these videos make me feel kind of ashamed of that fact. I love my country, and I know that our people are capable of great things. But lately, it’s like everybody has gone off the deep end. And yes, it does seem worse there than it is here… although I did get flipped off in Austria a couple of months ago by a guy on a bike. I think the guy meant to flip off Bill, who was driving at the time, but I got the full brunt of his middle finger. I will admit that my instinct was to respond in kind. So I guess there is that. I probably wouldn’t have done that in Germany, though. Flipping people off, especially in traffic, is against the law. Why? Because finger gestures almost always make things worse and escalate situations that don’t need to be escalated. So does yelling, preaching, shaming, and flying off the handle. I feel like people all over the whole world, but especially people in the United States, need to take a deep breath.

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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

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 judgment, 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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