While this post was inspired by, yet again, the situation that inspired THIS post, (situation described here in the decorum post, which has been restored to it’s original self, because honestly? fuck the person trying to censor me), it’s actually a post I’ve been trying to write for four years – since my marriage ended in a blaze of what can only be described as fart-fires.
Before I go any further: If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you figure things out, and point you in the direction of resources in your area. And I’ll go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and say that if you feel you’re being abused, you can email me and I’ll try to help you to the best of my ability, both by listening and trying to help you find local resources.
I’ve experienced a myriad of abusive people through my life, and while there are times I got myself into a bad spot, the thing is, abuse is not the fault of the person being abused, ever. If it is, it’s not abuse, it’s something I like to call “consequence,” even though that word isn’t always perfectly correct.
This entry is more long-form with examples than it is the cut-and-dried entry from the legal jargon post, because some of these require more detail and examples than simply saying, “here, this is a definition. If you know basic English, there’s not a whole lot more to it.” Abuse is sometimes REALLY hard to spot, especially for those experiencing it, and there are a bunch of reasons for that, too, but it all boils down to perception of the situation and of themselves, and how they don’t add up all the time.
I grew up in a home where the types of abuse came both with intention and from complete ignorance. Then came the divorce and the home that was more snapped in two than “merely” broken (my family is very dramatic, you may have noticed). That was followed up with the addition of a (very sick but still abusive) step-parent. Then a second divorce, which created tension which led to more abuse. Then punishments that were so outside the realm of logical that I’m still seriously confused as to how they made any sense to the person administering them. After that, and the second step-parent (who’s pretty cool, honestly, though it took a while to adjust), I was no longer in that home, and there were a few years before I was exposed to abuse in yet another home I was in, skip a few years, I ended up in my abusive marriage, and then I backslid a few weeks ago when I got to have a flashback abuse experience.
Where do you get off telling us what is and isn’t abuse?
That’s an extremely simplified run-down of my life in terms of the abuses I suffered, but like I said: not all of these were malicious in the way we typically think of as abuse. Some were literally because the person doing it didn’t know any better because they were either treated that way, or because no one had ever bothered to tell them they were being abusive, so they didn’t know that what they were doing was hurting someone. Some of these abusers learned and changed, and the change has been more-or-less permanent. Others died before they even came close to remotely feeling bad about the crap they’d pulled (one in particular was so awful that when he died, the crying was more out of relief than mourning). Still others are still out there being complete jerks to other people because no matter how often they were confronted, they didn’t want to change, because what they were doing suited them just fine.
Okay, smart guy, why do people abuse others?
It’s a trope, but it’s also true in a lot of cases: some abusers continue a cycle of abuse unless they are given the opportunity to learn what is and isn’t appropriate to do to others. Other cases of abuse are due to illness, personality disorders, or, as stated above, them never being told that what they were doing was wrong by anyone. Malicious abusers may have come from an abusive home, but they also have a desire to control things, and controlling another human being is a power trip for them, so no matter what they experience, or how much they’re reprimanded, they can’t stop. This is why there are so many abuse cases with professional athletes. When you’re treated like your shit doesn’t stink, and are paid to be aggressive, you expect to always be on a pedestal. When someone doesn’t treat you the way you want, or you start to feel inferior…well, abuse is one way to get control back. (I’m not covering those with sociopathic tendencies, here, because that’s a whole other ball game that would take an entire post by itself, and I would still be wrong about motivation, because I’m woefully under-equipped to explain anything sociopaths do.)
Ultimately, that’s what abuse is about: control.
How can you spot abuse that’s not blatant? Isn’t abuse yelling and hitting someone? Or unwanted sexual contact?
There are as many different ways of abusing as there are people in the world. Everyone has their own tactic, their own trigger, their own reasons for abuse, and if you’ve been paying attention, so far, there are people who don’t know what their triggers even are. They just react in a way that’s natural to them.
However, there are telltale signs aside from the obvious physical and verbal characteristics. I’ll do a very simplified list of questions to ask yourself, here:
1. Does the person frequently dismiss your concerns when they’re voiced?
2. Do they often laugh when you’re in a compromising or bad situation, even one they didn’t cause?
3. Do they have a tendency to continue berating you for something long after your transgression (real or imagined) has been rectified?
4. Do they bring up past situations in an attempt to emotionally throw you off-balance?
5. Do they attempt to influence your opinion on something to the point where they become angry if you don’t agree?
6. Are their reactions to ways you express yourself so charged that you feel unable to say/do anything you like, even in the presence of others?
7. Do you ever feel as though your actions are coerced by someone else, rather than natural to your personality?
Those are REALLY basic questions. Some require more clarification. For example, if someone gets mad at you for sharing an opinion they disagree with, that’s not abuse. That’s literally just them getting angry about a disagreement. If the behavior is repeated, and they badger you into trying to change your opinion, THAT qualifies as abuse.
My Wasband did it by constantly berating me for things I did differently than him due to how we were raised. In my house, birthday money was in lieu of a gift, and was meant to be spent how you wanted (and my family is pretty staunchly in the camp of “don’t you dare pay bills with it” – this year, in fact, my dad pretty much supervised me spending it on stuff I wanted, because he reasoned that I was so stressed out I deserved a treat, and I wasn’t about to argue with that). In his house, birthdays were kind of glossed over, for reasons I was never sure of. When we were married, my birthday came along, and I was sent money by a friend. I spent it on makeup and alcohol. He berated me for wasting it and told me it should have gone toward household expenses that I was “using rather than doing your job around here.”
The message was that I didn’t deserve gifts, because I wasn’t performing my “wifely duties” as he preferred.
The way that situation in the “decorum” post played out is that the significant other (SO from now on) of the person I’d written about (SB from now on) got mad about me posting a link to the post on Twitter, where we have mutual friends. SO also said something about me going against my word that I wouldn’t bring it up if SB didn’t. If my entry counts as me bringing it up in a combative fashion, I suppose we have different views of what that means, and that’d be fine if I wasn’t actually badgered for several hours about it.
Rather than state his concerns and then leave, SO chose to state his concerns, not listen to my responses or apologies, accuse me of not listening, and then gaslight (definition to come) in order to try to make me feel guilty about not only that situation with SB, but other things I’d said/done in the past. THAT is abuse. Prolonged harping about a single issue of which the abuser should have no control over, but which they think they should, and will do whatever it takes to assert their presumed control.
What is “gaslighting”? That sounds…like it’s not a thing.
Oh, my friends, it is very much a thing, and one of the most common forms of verbal and emotional abuse – and it can lead to coercion for sexual abuse, or even lead to prolonged physical abuse that can end in death for the victim, if the abuser is not satisfied with the amount of what is basically groveling for forgiveness for these perceived slights.
gaslight: (v) manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity (transitive: gaslighting)
Manipulation of a prolonged sort is abuse. We’re manipulated all the time by advertising, by our parents and friends, and by our superiors in work or educational situations in order to accomplish tasks or perform desired functions. You don’t want to go to a movie with a friend? But they’re soooo lonely…and they really need this fun thing to distract them from their shitty circumstances…so okay, you’ll go to keep them company. That’s manipulation, though it’s relatively harmless unless it becomes a habit.
Gaslighting manipulation goes more like this (keep in mind, this is such a simple example because of word count already being ridiculous on this post):
You come home after a long day and you find that your significant other hasn’t done the dishes, as they promised to do that morning before you left. You find them sitting in front of the television, where it appears they’ve been all day due to the fact that they’re wearing the clothes they slept in, and there’s an assortment of trash from various snacks and meals in front of them – all are takeout, which would cause them to never have to enter the kitchen all day. Tired, and frustrated, you ask why they didn’t do the dishes.
Their responses could be a wide range of things, and many answers would be acceptable, though the best one for everyone’s sake would be, “I’m so sorry, I lost track of time – let me do them right now.”
There are a few which would qualify as gaslighting, but a particular favorite is something like, “I’m tired of you ragging on me all the time. I’m tired, too. I have things going on in my life, too. Why are you always complaining? I don’t see YOU doing them!”
In this way, not only has the person turned the conversation over on you, they’ve made it an argument, AND they’ve attempted to manipulate you into feeling guilty for not knowing what they do during the day (which would make folks who work long hours feel particularly guilty if they also feel disconnected from their significant other). They didn’t do the dishes? Well, if they don’t, and you want them done so badly, do it yourself!
In the case of the decorum post, things went a little more like this:
You are in a close friendship, with both sides enjoying each other’s company, when one day, without warning or precedent, your friend cuts off all contact after announcing to a large number of people that they now hate you. When you ask for an explanation, you are ignored. You get angry, express it privately to a few close friends, and then try to move on to your daily concerns. Incidentally, you’re still acquaintances with your ex-friend’s significant other, and while you’re cautious around them, you also feel as though you can’t say what you’d like, even about unrelated things, because you’re aware of the fact that your ex-friend shared why she no longer wanted to be friends with her SO, since that’s how relationships generally work.
You decide to vent your frustrations after another similar incident raises ire, and the SO reads it, since it’s on the internet in a public place. He privately contacts you, berates you for posting the situation (specifically where their friends can see it), and proceeds to attack something you’re very sensitive about (trying to manipulate your memory) to disrupt you from your argument. When an apology is offered, it’s rebuffed with further accusations. Whenever a direct question is asked of him, he evades it and instead cites something he feels you did wrong. He repeats these slights ad nauseam, to the point where he’s moved on from countering to diverting/blocking.
It ended quickly, but left me sour for the rest of the day. I couldn’t place why until I looked over the conversation, again, and realized his tactic. I’ve had that done to me so many times in my life that I should recognize it, but in the moment (this is why it’s called gaslighting, by the way), I was too angry and on-guard to see what it was. I was reactionary. That’s exactly the reaction that’s sought when someone gaslights – whether they realize they’re doing it or not.
With the example at the beginning of the post, about my Wasband and birthday money, he chose to gaslight by telling me that since I’d spent money on myself when we were in need (he hid the fact that financially, we were MORE than fine, which is known as omissive manipulation), I was an awful wife – and this was an opening to a list of other qualities he felt I lacked, and I was left trying to defend myself against an extensive onslaught of criticism that seemed to come out of nowhere, and spanned the entirety of our relationship. Since these grievances hadn’t been aired before, I was befuddled, and unable to formulate a reply before he started another tirade. He silenced me by deliberately trying to change my memory of events that happened long enough ago that I honestly never thought about them.
These examples aren’t to shame specific people (I’ve already done enough of that elsewhere, believe me), but to point out that you don’t have to be in constant pain to be abused. It can be situational, and subjective. What is abuse to you may not be to someone else, because you feel and experience things differently. Someone could love having their feet touched, while someone else could have such a hatred of it that they insist on wearing socks all the time (…like me. I hate it so much I view a pedicure as a medical procedure, because there’s no other way I’ll do it – and this is because of events in my past that were driven by emotional coercion, which is a type of abuse). Someone else could get their engine revved (so to speak) by arguing, while others have no desire to engage in any physical contact with a person with whom they’ve been arguing. It varies, but the keys are the same. Just watch out for them, cut them off at the pass if you can, and get out if there’s no way to divert it (either by direct confrontation or through mediation).
This is already over 2000 words, and I doubt many folks will have read this far, so if you did, I applaud you. I will cover types of physical abuse in another entry – those are more recognizable, but just as diverse in number as mental and emotional abuse.
Don’t be overly sensitive, but be mindful, and take care of yourselves. No matter what people tell you, your worth comes from YOU and the things YOU do and feel. Outside influence and recognition is nice, but if you don’t value yourself highly, you’re more likely to end up with someone who also doesn’t value you very much, which leads to abuse, which can lower your self-esteem even more…and then you get into a vicious cycle.
Take care of yourselves.
ETA: Mike W. has some good contributions to the “from experience” section, and I wanted to add it for folks to see.
I think the hardest thing about “spotting abuse” is that often the person doing the abusing subtly changes your perceptions to the point where you can have some slight “this isn’t ok” feeling, but you don’t recognize it as abuse. I know that I consistently made excuses for the other person’s behavior and blamed myself. The toxicity of the situation changes how you’d usually think and respond, before you even realize it IS toxic. If, like me, you learned earlier in life to always stick by people who were having a rough time of things and you want to be helping and understanding. If you learned to put other people’s feelings and needs before your own, to mollify and avoid conflict instead of speaking up, then I think certain types of abusive people are literally drawn to you, like a bee to honey, even if they’re not consciously aware of what they’re doing to you. I think abusers (including mine of late) learn behaviors that are predatory, but also deeply rooted, instinctual coping mechanisms for them They learn how to probe for your insecurities and vulnerabilities, manipulate, use them to get what they want from the other person, and then scorch the earth behind them. As long as abusing and destroying their target gets them any measure of relief from the pain they feel inside, that’s all that matters to them. They’ll repeat the same song and dance over and over with different people, or with you if you keep coming back.
Also, these people can be unbelievably hard to spot at first, because the mask they show you and the world, combined with their subtle positive manipulation tactics in the beginning, can conceal who they are extremely well.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a ground-breaking entry. Basically, there was fallout yesterday, which you may have noticed resulted in me censoring my blog post only a couple of hours after I’d published it. [i restored it to its former glory. Read the restored update HERE.]
I had intended to just restore my original blog post with some caveats, but in addition (because apparently this is an issue? – Specifically, when I cut ties with the second person mentioned in the last post, they sub-tweeted that I would be slandering them as a result), I’d also like to give any potential readers a view of why I write the way I do on my blog, and why dancing that line between “libel” and “perception” is a thing, here.1
How I choose to express my distaste for a situation involving someone hurting me isn’t really anyone’s business, but humor me, here.
If there is any information in this entry which is false or incorrectly stated, I invite my legal-eagle friends/readers to correct me, and I will make the proper changes in this post.
This is a REALLY common mistake.
How common? Enough so that a bunch of frivolous lawsuits are brought to lawyers complaining of damaged reputation. Also enough that people use the terms “slander” and “libel” interchangeably, most likely because they’re confusing the term “libel” meaning “a plaintiff’s written declaration,” with the term “libel” meaning “written information that is demonstrably false and does damage to an individual’s or organization’s reputation.”
People are more used to using “slander” because they think that “libel” is bringing a lawsuit against someone, or they think it’s the root word of “liability.” (It’s not – that’s “liable,” which means “legally responsible for something.” Libel is accusing someone of being responsible for damage to reputation. Liable is actually being responsible for harm, or being responsible for preventing harm – and y’all know that’s a broad brush.) “Slander” is also a term used in a lot of movies and TV shows regarding gossip, which can be appropriate, but sometimes they make the same mistake. Writers of shows are people, too, and people make mistakes.
“Slander” is less confusing, it has a pretty widely-accepted definition that’s easy for most people to understand, and so it’s used.
What’s the difference between “libel” and “slander”?
I’ll just post the definitions:
libel – (n) a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation
slander – (n) the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation
The thing these two have in common is that they’re types of defamation (“the action of damaging the good reputation of someone” – it’s a character assassination, in layman’s terms). They’re also both burden-of-proof on the person who feels they’ve been defamed, if I understand it correctly.
The difference is that libel is defamation in a static format, such as in writing, a published video, or images. This is a bit confusing, as videos are people talking, but it’s the “static format” that’s important, here. It’s not idle gossip, it’s not someone confiding in someone else verbally or shouting on a street corner. It’s a published work.
On the other hand, slander is spoken defamation of character.
Television reporters can engage in slander. Newspapers, websites, and bloggers can engage in libel. I hope that’s a good comparison for folks.
How does that apply in cases like blogs?
Well, as I mentioned, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim of slander or libel. And the defamation usually has to be an outright lie – false claims made against a person, particularly hate speech – while “blind items” and inferences/conjecture are really only legally relevant while under oath (it’s the difference between filling in the blanks with what you think might have happened and telling what actually did happen to the best of your knowledge – in a courtroom, if it’s conjecture, you will likely be called on it and be reminded that you’re under oath and must only state demonstrable fact. Television judges use this as an opportunity to do their infamous smack-downs).
Conjecture is an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information. It’s easier to think of it as an uninformed opinion, honestly.
Inference is the act or process of reaching a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence. The second definition? “Opinion.”
To use each one in examples relevant to this blog: It’s conjecture to assume, due to someone’s political affiliation and your prior experience with people from that affiliation, that everyone with that affiliation has the same characteristics. It’s usually a negative connotation, but it can be used in situations of confidence due to someone’s similar affiliation with something you’re passionate about (not all conservatives are against gun control – it’s just a tendency).
It’s inference to assume that, since a lawmaker has voted for a state tax in the past, they will vote for a state tax in the future. It’s also inference to assume that if someone has demonstrated poor judgment in a personal situation, they will react that way in other personal situations. (I outlined a situation that bothered me, so it’s assumed that I will write about anything that bothers me. As an aside to that, if I was that prolific with my grievances, my blog would fill up with multiple entries per day, again.)
The difference between slander/libel and conjecture/inference is that the latter two are not, to the best of my knowledge, admissible in court.
There is a thing about a person’s perception (their view of a situation based on what they’ve seen or experienced) where if they even think they recognize themselves in something that someone has written, that everyone else also recognizes them. This is not always true, but we tend to be either overly-prideful (i.e. perceived injustice is a personal affront) or paranoid (seeing threats everywhere, whether real or imagined). Ooh, we have a word for this! Conjecture!
Anyway, we see that someone’s written something that may or may not be about us, it upsets us for whatever reason, and we get angry or upset. Some people deal with it by cutting off communication and doing damage control. Others become confrontational. Still others begin engaging in – wait for it – libel and slander as a counter-measure.
See how this is all full circle?
On a blog or other personal publication, libel is a fuzzy line. People bad-mouth politicians and religions all the time in the group of people I follow. However, this is seen as opinion based on their personal beliefs and perspective. Thus, it’s not libel.
However, they also tend to engage in name-calling. THAT is where the fuzzy line comes in. Is an ad hominem attack a libelous action? Not usually, unless you falsely accuse someone of being a child molester, rapist, or murderer (or something equally as damaging to them).
If you present your view of a political situation with superlative statements about how you feel about the person or persons involved, that falls under the same umbrella – opinion.
Here, I tend to write about things that have happened to me, personally, both with my health and my interactions with others. Normally I keep that kind of thing off my blog, these days, because I don’t feel like dealing with the dramatic fallout that nearly always accompanies it. Whether you think yesterday’s blog entry was a lapse in judgement or not is up to you – for me, it was venting while I tried to work out why a situation like that might have happened, after a long period of trying to squash it down for someone else’s benefit. That rarely ends well, by the way.
It’s conjecture (and some parts can be called inference, though I wasn’t about to publish those facts, as that would constitute a breach of trust I’m not even close to wanting to deal with), and I said nothing about the person that wasn’t true to the best of my knowledge. At most, what I did could be loosely described as gossip, but since no definite statements were made about the person’s character (except for identifying a phrase they’re fond of saying), it could only be viewed as damaging to someone’s pride, not their reputation as a whole. If people are privy to the situation, and recognize it, they are, as I mentioned, more likely to take offense to it due to their own perspective of how they acted. People who know the situation and disagree with me have the choice to either confront me or ignore me, but ultimately that’s on them, not me.
As is the burden of proof if they choose to act on the perceived slight.
I hope that clears a few things up.
If not, well, it’s not really my job to care. This entry was mostly made as snark, even though it’s all based on definitions that are easy to find online.
The moral of the story? If you accuse someone of something, be sure you can back it up.
1. I don’t tend to go “guess what they’re saying about you?”, but some of my other friends have different scruples. Several of them, actually, let me know that someone is wondering if I’m going to “publicly slander” them. Oh, honey. You don’t know me at all, do you?
There comes a point when someone is going to say something to you that you don’t like. That person may do it on purpose, or it may be an accident. They may apologize if you point it out, they may not (after all, if it’s an opinion stated rationally, they have nothing to apologize for).
If this statement is without precedent (meaning that they haven’t done this sort of thing, before), and you decide that they’re just not a good person, or not worth your time, I think perhaps the fault doesn’t lie with them. It lies with you.
How is that?
Well, we choose how we feel, ultimately. We can have initial reactions, and some of them may be completely valid. You can rage all you want when someone flings attacks at you. You can cry your eyes out when someone you thought you knew turns out to be a complete jerk. You can show unrestrained joy when a little thing makes you unbelievably happy. I’m not saying that feelings are invalid. I’m saying that you need to take stock of that feeling and why it’s happening, at least when it’s a negative emotion.
Most of you guys know that when I started this blog, I was a very reactionary person. I decided that since I was a newcomer to the libertarian blogging scene, and a new gun owner (after quite a difficult time in my life), I could bring a fresh perspective to things. “People want to hear what I have to say about this!”
I didn’t often think how my words would affect others, because it’s MY blog, right?
Well, our words do have an effect. I’ve vented on here about personal issues, only to have it create a real-world impact on my life – and there have been fewer than 5 times where that impact was positive. Most of the time, there was retaliation in some form. People reacted to my rage in a manner that was, well, raging. They thought that since I was impertinent enough to bad-mouth them, they were justified in returning fire.
I can’t say I disagree with their thought process, but I disagree with that sort of action. I didn’t always feel that way – like I just pointed out, I’ve been a reactionary person in spades, before, and I still get that way.
(An example would be yesterday’s Facebook rant about Wil Wheaton and his being completely unaware of how internet anonymity works. I called him ” a smug little twit with a god complex.” I know there are a lot of people who agree with me on that, as the lively discussion afterward proved, but when people stopped using examples and started just using qualifiers that were either broad classifications, or ad hominem, I couldn’t respond. I will have discussions. I will not just call names. Not any more.)
That parenthetical statement aside, My point is that I’ve learned from my past, and I try not to repeat the things that create undue stress. A big part of it was the seizures I’d have when I got too upset. I didn’t take a moral inventory on everything – I stopped reacting harshly out of necessity. I call that “undue stress.”
I’ve noticed something, though. When I don’t rage, for the most part the people around me don’t rage. There are, of course, exceptions, but people are generally more polite, and willing to actually discuss things with me. I’m really happy about this.
On the flip side, however, there are people I’ve had to cut out of my life because they’re just not changing at all, and the way I’ve known them is no longer acceptable to me. I’ve been cut out due to someone’s inability to temper their reaction, which goes back to my original point. Both parties have a tendency to blow things out of proportion because they’ve spent so long either having their feelings validated by those around them (not a bad thing, unless it makes you a worse person; all feelings are valid, but not all reactions are), or they’ve avoided anything that makes them uncomfortable to the point of having no idea how the world works. People online tend to have both of these qualities in abundance, as we can create our own world with the click of a button. Websites exist for everyone out there, for every opinion, every preference, every religion and political affiliation…everything has a hub. And we can hover around that hub like it’s our lifeblood, slowly turning it into our world and becoming unaccustomed to what would be completey normal and non-combative disagreements, or differences in preference/opinion. When we’re unaccustomed to something, we’re more likely to react strongly to it, whether it be a positive or negative thing. People tend to remember both the negative experiences they have, and the negative reactions they encounter.
That last sentence is very important, so I’m going to repeat it: People tend to remember both the negative experiences they have, and the negative reactions they encounter.
This tendency is due to a valid necessity to avoid bad things in the future, but we’ve become complacent enough that we perceive things as a threat that are no such thing.
[EDITED TO ADD: The example posted here has been pointed out to me to disagree with something I said earlier. Despite my hurt feelings about the matter, I feel it’s best if I bury the horse instead of beating it. Sorry for the gross metaphor. RESTORED BECAUSE BALLS TO CENSORSHIP OF MY LIFE EXPERIENCES.]
I recently lost what I thought was a good friend, and I’m still not sure why. They suddenly became chilly toward me, and then became openly hostile when I made the honest mistake of replying to a Twitter conversation that they were in the midst of with another friend. I got the tweets out of order (because my Android client sometimes derps), and I didn’t see that they’d already covered what I’d pointed out. The person lashed out and told me off, I apologized and explained that I’d see the tweet out of context, they lashed out, again, and I simply replied with “…sorry.” because I had no idea what else to say.
I asked this person what I’d done in a private message, and said that while they didn’t owe me an explanation, I would appreciate one. I was ignored.
Shortly after this, I was sub-tweeted (when someone talks about you or passive-aggressively lectures without naming you) in a rant, and the specific instance was named. It was obvious enough that other people messaged me and said things like, “Didn’t you apologize for that?” If your rage is THAT specific, you’re better off just talking to the person instead of trying to humiliate them (unsuccessfully, I might add). That’s immature, and it’s unnecessary.
All of this happened in the span of one week. Before then, there was absolutely no indication that anything was amiss.
I lashed out and wrote some sub-tweets of my own (after blocking them on every single social media presence we shared), because not only had I directly asked what was going on, but I did apologize, and the other party involved didn’t react. There’s a difference in maturity between the two, and one is, frankly, the result of an echo chamber. This person had people on eggshells because of an anxiety issue (a completely valid issue, mind you), and they’d either never learned to deal with conflict due to a volatile upbringing, or they refused to out of an overblown sense of self-preservation. There could be another reason, but from my viewpoint, I’ve seen so many examples of this person avoiding anything and everything that makes them the least bit stressed that I’m fairly certain they’ve manufactured their own behavior in that regard. It’s tailor-made to them, so they feel no reason to change.
Like Wil Wheaton, this person practically preaches love and acceptance. They comfort people who are feeling down. They repeat a mantra, “You are loved,” every single night (I found this a bit annoying, as that sort of thing repeated a lot is usually a manipulation, but I thought they meant well). They have legitimately good things about them, which is why I trusted them and became close to them.
However, the fact that I was shunned so easily tells me some very specific things, primarily the level of maturity they’ve developed in regards to their response to situations.
I will once again reiterate that I have done the same thing, though not recently. It’s honestly been quite a while, unless I’ve just been completely mistaken.
[ANOTHER EDIT: The person who pointed out my “discrepancy” is this person’s S.O., and engaged in emotional badgering an abuse that seriously screwed with my head for a day, thus inspiring THIS post about types of abuse.]
If you’re still with me, it’s appreciated. This post has been a long time coming, and I feel it’s something many people could benefit from, even if just dealing with a smaller group.
You are not owed happiness.
You are not owed respect.
You are deserving of both when you try to achieve both.
If you’ve reached the point where you can identify yourself in any of the characteristics I verbosely named, and I’m not trying to be snotty or condescending, here, but you might want to take a look at why that is.
Feelings are valid.
How you present those feelings to others is more important, however, at least in my opinion.
I would like to edit Wheaton’s original “law” by adding a word: “Don’t needlessly be a dick.”
If what you say can be interpreted as inflammatory without any effort, take a step back and ask yourself if it’s necessary. I think your world might be a bit easier if you do.
Not gonna lie, I’ve kind of come to hate WordPress the past month or so, with all the writing I do for IGM on it. It’s not like I hate my job. It’s just that staring at a white screen all the time gets to me.
Anyway, a lot has happened since I last updated. I went to Detroit for a week, saw lots of awesome stuff (DIA was really cool), ate lots of awesome food (POUTINE. YES, PLEASE), and met a lot of interesting people on the 4 planes I had to take (as well as the airports I had to sit in), including the sister of the Manager of Rendevous – the restaurant where Princes Harry and William got completely shit-faced at when they visited Memphis this year. How do I know they got shit-faced? Well, I had a witness who wasn’t fond of hyperbole.
While I was in Detroit, I got a call from Forrest, who prefaced the conversation with, “I want you to enjoy your vacation, okay?” so I was instantly on-edge. It turns out he was let go. Why? Well, the management over HIS management was told to cut costs wherever they could, so they looked at people’s records and were like, “yeah, we can stop paying them.” Forrest was downsized based on the number of times he was late to work. I don’t know if I mentioned this, earlier, but that was a chronic problem that was not fixed when he moved to a later time, due to a number of factors like insomnia and his sleep apnea.
So we lost health insurance. Which has been basically making me anxious for the past couple of weeks. That’s been fun.
I started to titrate down on my Lamictal, since I figured I wouldn’t be able to use it, any more, and ended up having a seizure this past Saturday morning, and woke up with a migraine this morning. So I’m going back up to full dose – Walgreens does have their discount program, so I should still be able to get it. Thankfully, we have savings. He’s looking for jobs, has friends looking for him, and hopefully by next month he’ll have something. Cross your fingers, yeah?
I go back to the neurologist tomorrow for a re-check and an update, which we’ll have to pay full price for, but it’s worth it, honestly, with all the help I’ve gotten from that office in the past few months. I can’t really skimp on that or the Lyme doc.
In WRAP BONNIE IN BUBBLE WRAP news, I have fallen down no fewer than 7 times in the past 3 days. The most recent adventure involved my office chair, my tablet (I was distracted), and gravity.
Of course I Snapchatted it as soon as I assessed that nothing was broken.
I think I told y’all how I rolled out of my friend’s wheelchair earlier this year due to an inability to balance (and it has no safeguards, like the chair I’m using does)? The difference between then and now is that in the wheelchair accident, I was able to roll backwards and only sustain a bit of shoulder pain, as I was in the front yard with plenty of room. This time, I landed flat after catching my right arm on the coffee table you see in the photo with the recliner on the left side, and the couch behind, it was a tight space, and all I could do was lean forward to minimize impact on my back. I felt a bit whiplashed, earlier, but I think it’s fine, now. My right scapular area and rotator cuff are the opposite of happy. My left calf (at the top, almost behind my knee) smacked the chair bottom, and I spent most of the afternoon/evening with ice on it and my scapula, and a heating pad on my shoulder. Walking is difficult. Thank god for Netflix on my tablet.
I’m still in quite a bit of pain, so I’m going to stop, here, but I’m going to go ahead and invite folks to ask about anything they’re curious about. Leave comments, tweet at me, leave a Facebook comment, whatever. I’ll answer almost anything.
And with that, I bid you all goodnight.
As everyone who reads this blog knows, I have Lyme disease, have had it since I was 14. Because of wrong information about prevention and identification of both seed ticks (youngest tick form most likely to transmit) and the MYRIAD of rashes (not just target rash) that can occur with transmission, my mother and I thought it was a chigger and put Vaseline on it. Apparently ticks are one of the few creatures that panic-vomit. That’s how I got infected. It wasn’t dramatic, it just was, and this is something that hundreds, if not thousands, of people in this country do every day to remove ticks (other methods involve paint thinner, smoldering matches/paper, and drowning it in a bottle cap of water – all of which accomplish the tick backing out to run, but they ALL vomit before they do that – it’s their fight-or-flight).
I got all kinds of illnesses I wasn’t supposed to be getting – mono (have had it 3 times, now), pneumonia (repeatedly, during neither flu nor allergy season), and so many bouts of tonsilitis that I lost count. My doctor at the time said that it was because I had so many ear infections when I was a kid.
I also developed a sudden allergy to latex paint fumes. Shortly after that it was a full-blown latex allergy. This was followed by a bunch of little sensitivities, including some to medications I’d previously been able to take with no problem (this continues, today – a medication I could take 7 years ago nearly made me unconscious earlier this month, and a sleep-aid I took in 2006 with minor hilarity caused me to hack into my leg in 2009 – if anyone asks why I don’t take Ambien to sleep, I hike up my pants leg).
Fast-forward a bit, I’m stressed out about a wedding and college graduation, and I start getting REALLY sick. I can’t walk right, I’m having seizures, life just sucks so much it’s unbearable. I get pneumonia, again. I start gaining weight. I try to exercise, and nearly have a stroke – it’s then that I discover that my normally-low blood pressure is suddenly way too high. All of these are hallmarks of advanced Lyme disease, but my doctors were all convinced I was bipolar and too fat, and that going on mood-altering medications were key to my recovery.
Fast-forward a bit more, I’m divorced, still sick as fuck, and a friend of mine with Lyme says, “You…need to ask your doctor about this.” He then proceeded to tell me that I shouldn’t get the CDC test, because even if it shows positive bands (they’re all assigned to different parts of the Lyme bacteria – it’s basically the Lyme’s trash that the test sees, since there aren’t antibodies to it), you’re not considered actually sick unless you show something like 7 bands, which almost never happens. This, incidentally, is why the CDC only had 30,000 new cases of Lyme per year until 2013.
I asked my doctor, first (I’d gotten a new one, I liked her, I trusted her to not be a dick about it), and got the CDC test to see if I needed to pursue anything further. I showed positive on the band that indicates that Lyme flagella are floating around. That’s trash that’s small enough that were it left over, my body would have gotten rid of it within a week. Basically, it meant I was still infected.
I found an LLMD in my area (lucky, honestly – there aren’t too many, and I’ll go into that in a bit), showed him the test, and he was like “…yeeeah, I’m going to do an examination, ask you some questions, and we’ll go from there.”
I was clinically diagnosed with Lyme disease in March 2011. This means that upon examination of symptoms, a thorough interview, and a physical examination, a doctor learned in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases has made the judgment that I have the disease and should be treated for it as soon as possible.
You know who hates clinical diagnoses? The CDC. They want to see the bullseye rash, they want the over-kill on the positive test, they don’t want anything but disaster-level illness, because that’s the kind that’s most likely to be curable.
My LLMD practices in a tiny clinic in Tunica, MS, right next to a bank of casinos. He sees mostly worker’s comp cases, and his clinic has a walk-in doctor for that reason. He only sees Lyme patients on Wednesdays, but had to expand to Friday afternoons for the overflow, because people are getting sick at such a fast rate, down here. He can’t advertise that he’s an LLMD – I found him through a registry that I had to register for with my personal information to obtain an address, because the CDC has instructed insurance companies on methods of treatment, as well as “appropriate” ages for many diseases and conditions, and insurance companies have and will sue any doctors actively treating anything more than acute Lyme (which is hard as hell to catch and treat, as an aside).
I was able to get a test from Igenex, a lab in California that basically bites its thumb at the CDC, and it was overwhelmingly positive. That test came back on May 31, 2013. I had gone at least 2 years without proper treatment from my clinical diagnosis, and at most nearly 16 years from the date of contraction.
In 2013, the CDC finally upped the number of new cases of Lyme disease on their website from 30,000 to 300,000. That’s more that the number of new cases of breast cancer per year, and it’s actually a communicable disease. It can be spread through the blood (Lifeblood knows this, and forbids anyone who’s ever tested positive for Lyme disease from donating anything, including organs and plasma), through sexual contact (yeah, it totally counts as an STD, though it’s less common), and through any insect that drinks blood from multiple creatures. Opossums are the only animal with a known natural-defense against ticks (it’s in their fur), meaning that any animal, not just deer, can get and pass Lyme disease.
Dogs get it, and are immediately treated by vets.
People get it, and are put through paces to even be taken seriously enough for diagnosis, let alone treated.
Lyme is as serious as HIV, can cause brain damage like syphilis, and can destroy internal organs. It acts like a cancer in that it will spread through the bloodstream and then set up shop in tumor-like cysts, where it multiplies before sending off a scouting crew for a new camp. It hides in the body’s own cells for protection. It’s a bacteria that acts like a virus, and kills people by causing heart attacks, anaphylaxis, inopportune seizure injuries, and even liver damage.
The CDC says chronic Lyme doesn’t exist.
So yeah, I fucking hate the CDC, and have absolutely no faith in their ability to keep anything under control, let alone a virus that they’ve been inadvertently encouraging by telling people who call with concerns that they’re fine to travel (like the most recent nurse to get sick).
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m not one of those folks who looks for the bad in every situation, but when I see the CDC say “it’s cool, we’ve got this,” I’m instantly concerned, because no, they don’t “got” this, what they’ve “got” is a really bad habit of sticking their fingers in their ears and singing until confronted with too much blowback to ignore.
First, the blood pressure thing: I went to the doctor, as I mentioned I was going to do in my last entry. That happened on Monday afternoon.
The Zanaflex was definitely the candidate. Since I stopped taking it, my BP hasn’t dipped lower than 100/65. WOO!
I’m back on the Temazepam, but I’m okay with that.
I also got my flu shot on Monday, and on Wednesday night, my arm started getting really hot and lumpy where the injection was, and it’s still really sore (it’s still red and lumpy and warm, too). When I went to Walgreen’s to get my meds, today (will expound on that in a bit), I was like “Hey, am I right to think this isn’t really a big deal? Because it doesn’t seem like a big deal…just weird.”
The pharmacist said, “Yeah, your immune response is just really strong. But you’re not going to get the flu, so there’s that!”
Basically, my immune system is over-reacting, but it’s no longer worthless! YAY!
I went to an ENT today because of the whole “sinuses are full, you need to get that checked” thing, and since I have vertigo, and ear pain in my left ear, they wanted to go ahead and test my hearing and go through the usual battery of tests. I got a regular hearing test, something that basically amounted to an EEG/EMG on my ear canals, an eardrum pressure test, and then the dreaded ice water test (to test normal response in ear fluid to changes in temperature – it makes you really dizzy).
Apparently my right ear is perfect, and my left ear only has 35% loss on one or two frequencies – but since I got blasted in the ear by an airhorn when I was 17 (ah, marching band…), that’s no big surprise. The doc said I have the hearing of a “child, or a teenager.” For a 31-year-old musician who had a habit of doing loud karaoke for a few years, that’s amazing.
My eardrums respond normally to pressure. The nerves are fine, as well. The fluid isn’t terrible enough to worry. My dizziness response is normal (though that test is awful – I still have a headache from it).
I have an infection in the left canal, which is not a surprise in the least, as that ear’s been bothering me for months. I have eardrops for that. I also got nose spray for my sinuses (which is why I was back at Walgreens today).
The diagnosis for my vertigo was basically, “Yeeeah, your migraines are screwing with you.”
Honestly, that’s the best that visit could have gone, and it was great finally getting good news from a doctor!
Oh, also? I dyed my hair on Wednesday (or, rather, my sister dyed it for me):
Blue and purple dye mixed together = indigo!
I still haven’t washed it since Wednesday, because I REALLY want to color to stick, this time, so I’m sitting here thanking the person who invented dry shampoo. I’ve had to be really careful showering, because getting my hair wet will make it bleed onto my skin, and that’s not optimal.
Soooo there’s my week. Next week I’m traveling to Detroit to hang out with unforgivingminute and FINALLY meet lygerlyger (if you don’t know who they are, check my sidebar), so that’ll be fun. :) I’m glad I got my ENT visit squared away before then, so I don’t have to worry about what the plane pressure is going to do aside from the normal issues (which can be fixed by yawning and chewing gum).
I have a headache from trying to rectify the problem I’m about to share, so bear with me – this may sound a bit disjointed in places. I’ll try to keep it simple.
My blood pressure was really great until around 2009/2010, when suddenly it began hovering around 140/100. That’s 20/40 higher than the highest recommended for someone my age. I started on BP meds, and after a few adjustments, I found one that worked really well without making me feel too tired.
In addition to the Lamictal, I was put on Zanaflex to help me sleep. It’s a muscle relaxer – and, well, the heart is a muscle.
My blood pressure has been hovering around 90/60 for the past week or so, during the day (even at “normal peak times”) – that’s the lowest recommended blood pressure for anyone.
I talked to a nurse friend, and he said, “If systolic goes below 80, you get your ass to a hospital.” At one point, it got down to 85, but that was at 3am, which is the time your BP is lowest, so I held out until later in the day, and it went back up.
When I move around, my BP goes up to around 100/70, which is significantly better, but moving around is also wearing me out quickly, so I don’t do it as much.
Last night, I took my meds, along with my Zanaflex, and proceeded to doze off while on my laptop, as I’m wont to do. Forrest came in and saw me, and was like, “Hey, go to bed.” I had to pee (my kidneys are working overtime – that’s another post for another day), so I got up, and immediately regretted that decision. I made it to the bathroom, got back into bed, and had the thought that I should probably check my BP, because I felt…really wrong.
The first reading was around midnight, and was 78/49, with a pulse of 78. Okay, that’s in the danger zone. I was a bit nervous, but also REALLY tired, so I wasn’t sure what to do.
I waited a few minutes, to see what my resting BP was: 72/42, pulse 61.
Obviously I’m alive, but that scared the crap out of me. I know why it’s happening, but it needs to stop, so I’m going to the doctor this afternoon to get it taken care of, because my doctor’s office was like, “HEY. GET IN HERE.”
I know that below 50/35 is pretty much coma to death. Hence the doctor’s urgency. And I know it was probably stupid of me not to call someone last night. I have no real defense for that – I was tired, and was out of it from the meds (and likely the low blood pressure, as well).
Sooo that’s happening.
We’ll see what happens at the doctor, I suppose.
When I first joined Opera Memphis, I was apprehensive. I was young, I didn’t know a lot about opera, and I was basically there to sing (after having auditioned due to peer pressure…the friend who dragged me along ended up not showing up at all), but had limited experience with performing in a serious musical group. I’d sung and danced in youth choruses, and did karaoke constantly, but that was pretty much it.
Basically, I was nervous, and I didn’t really know what I was doing.
A woman name Donna befriended me, helped me, showed me what to do, consoled me, talked me through things, and even led me to be a more self-advocating patient. She’s part of the reason I finally fought to get a hysterectomy, which may have actually saved my life. She gave me a coin with a Bible verse on it that I carry with me to this day, 7 years later, because it means so much to me that she gave it to me. I was in a really low place, and when I feel bad, I look at this coin, and I feel better.
It’s either in my purse or in my pocket. I’ve literally carried this around for 7 years.
She did so much for me in the few years I was in Opera Memphis (in Samson and Delilah, Don Giovanni, Turandot, and The Scottish Play), and I took it for granted that she would always be around…that when I got well enough to join again, she’d be there.
Turandot, dress rehearsal.
Donna Hettinger-York lost her battle with breast cancer, which metastasized to her bones, on September 19, 2014.
She died at home, with her family, which was her wish.
I’d gone to see her in the hospital last Thursday, but she was sleeping. I left her flowers and a letter, sat with her for a while (my friend Jason Vawter drove me, and I’m so grateful to him for that), got an update from the doctor, and left.
She looked so frail, and her sleep was restless. I know she was in pain, which is another reason I didn’t wake her up – sleep is precious when you’re sick, and I know that.
I wish she’d been awake so I could talk to her, but I’m just glad I got to see her.
There are people who you meet that just leave an impression on you. It doesn’t matter where you go, whether you keep in close contact, or even if you knew them for very long. You just have this feeling about them, that they’re great, and when you hear things about them, you feel it. Good, bad…everything about them affects you from afar. There are a limited number of people like that for me, and Donna was one of them.
It didn’t matter if she was in a bad mood or not, she would make the effort to try to make other people feel better. Her nature was to be a nurturer, and while she didn’t have biological children of her own, she was like a surrogate to so many. I even called her my “opera mom,” because of how much she helped me.
She was kind and hilarious. She’s one of those people that I honestly can’t think of anything negative about, which is rare. You know how folks tend to wax poetic about people when they’ve passed, like it’s an insult to their memory to remember their flaws? There’s nothing fake about my memory – Donna was a great person, period. Even her flaws lent credibility to that.
One of the costumes for The Scottish Play involved chest plates for the female chorus that featured molded boobs. Donna stuck a yarn tassel to hers as a gag, and accidentally left it on during a dress rehearsal. I was a super in that show (non-singing human scenery), and I nearly lost it trying not to laugh when I realized what had happened.
It had fallen off by this point, but look at that costume, and the sass on her face. She was the sassiest.
That was Donna. Just goofy as all get out, and so unabashedly herself.
Before the second act of The Scottish Play on opening night.
This is how I remember Donna.
This is how I always want to remember Donna.
And if you were with me tonight
I’d sing to you just one more time
A song for a heart so big
God wouldn’t let it live
May angels lead you in
Hear you me, my friend
On sleepless roads the sleepless go
May angels lead you in.
I don’t remember that side effect from last time, but I was also not sleeping very well, anyway (school, wedding planning, etc.), so there’s no telling.
But one of the things I looked up was whether Lamictal causes nightmares, and lo and behold, there were so many links from forums of people complaining about it (mostly women) that I’m half-convinced that if I keep taking this stuff, and it doesn’t get any easier for me to handle, I may never sleep again.
(Monday night, I got 3 hours of restless sleep before waking up at 4am and just…being awake. I took meds to help me sleep on Tuesday afternoon, because I was so miserably tired. Tuesday night I slept like the dead, but only for 6 hours. So far, I’m not exactly happy, and I even switched to taking the dose in the morning to see if that would help. Hah!)
So the key part of this nightmare – the part that woke me up – involved a zombie-thing. It was very Silent Hill-esque, even though I’ve never played any of those games…I’ve only seen a trailer or two of P.T. (the new one).
I had a goal, like a video game, and while it was happening, I remember dream-me thinking it was weird, but I had to complete the task in order to proceed.
That task? Destroy the head of a dead girl – which for some reason was hanging on the back of a door leading to a short hallway (i.e. a trap). The head was hanging on the side of the door in the hallway, which meant that if I did the tasks wrong, I was trapped in a very narrow space with what would be the vengeful spirit (or something) of this girl.
It was a little like F.E.A.R., now that I think on it.
Except for the tasks I had to complete, which were just gross. So I’m going to put them under a cut.
Continue reading Lamictal apparently produces vivid nightmares.
First, when my neurologist gets comfortable with someone, he tells dirty jokes. It’s hilarious, especially given that his delivery is a bit different due to his accent.
Alrighty, so last week, I had an EEG first thing in the morning, and went to the hospital for my MRI, MRA, and corotid ultrasound with gobs of glue in my hair. That was fun. I hope to never have another EEG.
My insurance canceled the ultrasound, I don’t know why, but whatever. I had the MRI and MRA, and was able to listen to music through headphones while in the machine. I couldn’t HEAR the music when the machine was pulsing, but whatever. I brought an eye mask and my mouth guard, and it went okay.
The results of that: everything’s normal, but all of my sinuses are inflamed and full. So I have a referral to an ENT forthcoming, which I needed, anyway, what with my left ear being a butthead.
I went back today, got the EEG results, and it was normal, as well. A bit of weirdness that would indicate that a seizure disorder may be present, but I didn’t tip any warning scales during the test. I knew that, already, but ah, well. If I have another episode, I suppose we’ll film it and just bring it with us next time.
Then I got another set of injections for my hips (that needle is huge, but it doesn’t hurt at all compared to the cortisol and numbing agent going through my muscles. Ugh…), and started the EMG test, more popularly known as the nerve conduction test, in my legs.
The first portion had the doctor sticking conductive pads attached to wires to different parts of each leg and foot, and then sticking what looked like a stun gun on other parts of my legs and feet to test my nerves. There’s definite damage/impairment in both legs, but the left one is worse. My feet were jumping around on some of the tests, and I couldn’t stop laughing because it felt so weird.
Then he took the conduction needle to test my muscles, and while it wasn’t really painful, having a needle stuck in the top of your foot while having to flex it backward is not really my idea of a good time.
The muscle test showed results that also supported the reduced nerve function in my legs.
It’s suspected that I have a pinched nerve in my back, but he’s not sure which one, and it would take another MRI to find. Fuck that. They were supposed to give me exercises for it, but they forgot, so I’m going to do some chair yoga or something, I guess.
I had to stop the Topamax because it made me feel faint, but in the interest of having me on something that could potentially help migraine and seizure, I’m now on Lamictal. I’ve been on it before, but I was also on Risperdal, I think, and got a bad rash on my leg. I don’t know which drug did it, but I guess we’ll see in the next week or so if it was the Lamictal, because it’ll do it again, faster, if I had that side effect, before.
I’m not going to be on a huge dose of it, so it’s truly preventative, not a treatment. So that’s good.
I was also given Imitrex to take if I get a migraine. Fabulous.
I go back in 6 weeks for an update and to see how things are going, and I will be going to the ENT sometime in the next few weeks, so hopefully we can get my sinuses taken care of. Since I’m on a bunch of antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory/immunosuppressant, already, unless there’s some allergy pill that will help things clear out (I kind of doubt it, but it’s worth a try), I may have to get a scope surgery to clear everything out. And these are ALL of my sinuses, because my body never does anything half-assed.
So there you have it. Everything is hopefully treatable and could be gone in a year or so, unless for some reason the nerve being pinched caused some sort of permanent damage.