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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complaints, condescending twatbags, social media

Thou shalt set a “good example”… especially if you’re a celebrity!

This morning, I read an article in the Washington Post about the late Charley Pride, who recently died of COVID-19. Well, if I’m honest, the article wasn’t “just” about Charley Pride. It was mostly about the backlash surrounding Pride’s death at age 86 and how COVID-19 has been affecting musicians– country musicians in particular. Yes, the article did lead with Pride’s death on December 12, a month after he received a lifetime achievement award at the annual Country Music Association awards. There was also a picture of Charley Pride, who was notable for being Black and singing music typically associated with people who have southern accents and light colored skin (not that the only people who like country are “rednecks” from the South, or that everyone who is southern is a redneck).

As many people know, the CMA awards took place as usual this year, indoors and maskless. Charley Pride happened to die of COVID-19. Many people assume he caught the virus at the Nashville event, which featured lots of people appearing on camera without masks. Now… I sure don’t know where Charley Pride came in contact with COVID-19. It’s possible that he got infected at the CMA awards. Or, maybe he got it from somewhere else. The fact is, he got it, and he’s now dead. I saw quite a lot of people wringing their hands over Mr. Pride’s death, acting as if he wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t accepted his award in person. It was as if the CMA awards organizers, who have been putting on this event for as long as I can remember, had “blood” on their hands.

Folks… I get that COVID-19 is a terrible thing and we should all be doing our part to limit and even eliminate its spread. But Charley Pride was 86 years old. I don’t know how many years he would have had left if he hadn’t caught the virus, but given the average lifespan of human beings in 2020, my guess is that he probably wouldn’t have had a really long time. He was 86 years old. Eventually, he was destined to die, as we all are.

Would people be just as angry if Pride had had a heart attack or a stroke? Would we be angrily pointing fingers at his (hypothetical, since I don’t know anything about Pride’s lifestyle) decisions to eat fried foods, smoke cigarettes, and avoid exercise, complaining about how his decision to not live “the right way” led to Pride’s “untimely” death?

I think I heard of Charley Pride for the first time on an ad for an album like this one.

Maybe Charley Pride could have lived to be 87 or 88 years old if he’d just done the “right” things and lived the way the experts recommend? No… I don’t think so. 86 years is a good run, and Charley Pride was lucky enough to live the bulk of his life without a pandemic going on. I am sorry that Charley Pride died, especially since he did have such a groundbreaking career in country music. But what happened to him will eventually happen to everyone. It happened to be COVID-19 that killed him at age 86, but it could have easily been something else. The end result is the same, any way you look at it. He’s dead.

Furthermore, while we are all being asked to stay away from others and wear face masks when we can’t, the fact is, people are still getting the virus. Sometimes, they’re getting it even when they do everything “right”. I don’t think it’s helpful to point fingers at those who get sick. I think we should have compassion for them, for I have read that COVID-19 is NOT a nice way to go. I have been trying to do the best I can not to get the virus. I haven’t ridden in a car since October 4th. I haven’t left my neighborhood since then, either. I walk my dogs, and that’s about it. I am lucky enough to be in a living situation in which I can do that. Not everyone is that lucky. We all have to get by in life the best way we can.

The rest of the article pointed out that the masses are being pretty hard on celebrities who flout the COVID-19 rules. Musicians and other performers have been particularly badly hit by the virus. Nine months ago, they lost their main ability to make a living. At the same time, people who earn money as performers as are lucky enough to be well-known are being hassled about their choices. They are expected to “set a good example” for everyone, and people go fucking berserk if they dare to post a picture of themselves doing anything popularly deemed “wrong”.

Part of this phenomenon, I think, comes from people being really bored, and angry that they’re bored. So, when they see someone like Jason Aldean at Disney World with his family, taking a photo without a face mask, they go into outrage mode and leave shitty comments. Mr. Aldean recently got a keyboard lashing from some woman who was outraged that he’d dare take a family photo while unmasked. Aldean’s response was, “Chill out lady. They are in our pocket. We took them off for 5 seconds to take the pic. Believe me, Disney didn’t give us a ‘free pass’ not to wear them. We had them on all day just like everybody else.” Later, he deleted the photo.

The same thing recently happened to actor Wil Wheaton, who dared to post a photo of himself and his wife at a red carpet event that happened in 2016. Wheaton got shitloads of disapproving comments from his followers, which he angrily addressed the next day. Celebrities are people too, and I’m sure most of them don’t appreciate rude comments from random people who are just reacting to and criticizing a photo without any context. The pandemic has made it almost taboo to post photos indicating “normal” behavior, even if the photo is older than March 2020.

For some reason, people feel compelled to call out “bad” behaviors, especially in our hyper connected social media age. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and most of the phones are capable of making videos. So, even before the pandemic started, folks were taking pictures and videos and calling people out online. But now, it’s gotten epically bad. God forbid someone post a photo of a large gathering or a maskless face… or a child who isn’t properly and perfectly strapped into a seatbelt or a car seat. Someone will post a criticism. Hell, I changed my cover photo to one I took of our village’s annual Christmas market. The photo was taken in 2019. I felt the need to add a disclaimer, just to head off any negative comments about crowds and a lack of face masks.

Some people, celebrities in particular, have stopped sharing photos at all, because they are tired of people calling them out. Thomas Rhett, and his wife, Lauren Akins, recently posted photos on Instagram of a trip they took to Mexico. Fans were quick to chastise the couple with self-righteous comments like, “Wish I could be happy for you but the rest of us are not traveling to try to keep covid at bay.” Rhett’s response was to “take a break” from Instagram because he was sick of dealing with the annoying comments that completely lacked contextual awareness. I can’t say I blame him for that.

Personally, I don’t see the point of calling people out for their photos. It’s not like leaving a nasty comment is going to change the behavior in the moment. What good does it do to criticize someone for not setting a good example when the moment has already long passed? Telling off Jason Aldean for daring to pose for a photo maskless at Disney World isn’t going to change the fact that he took the photo. And why shouldn’t he be allowed to take the photo and share it without a bunch of critical bullshit from strangers? Can people not comprehend that a photo is but an instant of someone’s life? Can folks not understand that a video of someone is just a drop in the bucket as to who someone is?

But… I really think people are just bored, scared, frustrated, angry, and bereaved… and they’re lashing out, particularly when they think someone is “privileged”. And a lot of the people who are judging others for their behaviors and being “privileged” have appointed themselves as having the right to keep score. I’m not sure what makes someone qualified to judge others, but suffice to say, if you’re not in a group that is deemed oppressed or disadvantaged in some way, you’re gonna hear about it when you aren’t doing the “right” thing, especially if you also have the nerve to publicize it on social media.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I think COVID-19 is awful on many levels. It’s made things very difficult for so many. I have nothing but compassion for people who get the virus– yes, even the ones who got it because they were doing “wrong”. What is now considered “wrong” wasn’t even on the radar a year ago. We all miss our lives, and most people really are just trying to get through this epic shitshow. Yes, some people could be taking the virus more seriously. Some people are egregiously taking risks that I wouldn’t take. But I think they must have their reasons for doing those things. It’s entirely possible they’re doing it because they’re selfish, but it’s also possible that they have other reasons that I don’t know about. And personally, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, whenever I can, because trying to believe the best about most people brings me more peace than simply assuming they’re selfish assholes (even if they actually are). I have enough problems with depression without assuming that everyone who isn’t doing what experts deem “the right thing” and not “setting a good example” is a jerk. I’d like to think that more people are good, than inherently bad.

In any case, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, for now. I don’t mind. But that’s just me. I don’t know what someone else is going through or what will make living through this strange time easier. And it’s just easier to let people do as they will. A judgmental comment from me isn’t going to change anything. On the other hand, when it comes to spelling and grammar, all bets are off. 😉

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