The Truth About Trolls

trolls

The truth about trolls is, as Psychology Today confirms, they are narcissistic sadists who enjoy your pain. So, we no longer have to ask “What kind of person trolls other people online? Who are these internet bullies? Why would you want to make another person feel so small?” Now we know. They are terrible people who hide behind a screen and poke and prod others, giggling gleefully when they get a reaction.

As someone who suffers from a mood disorder, dealing with trolls was a hard lesson for me. When a troll first engaged me on one of my sites, I thought he was just confused, wanted to understand what I wrote and so wrote something snippy because he misunderstood me. I soon found out that was not true. He kept engaging me, calling me ignorant, tasteless, a no-talent hack. His insults hit deep. I am a depressed person. I struggle with self-worth, and his words confirmed something I thought about myself during my darkest times.

He also stalked an author friend of mine, emailed the author’s wife and did his best to get a rise from them. I had enough, eventually, and when the social site I was engaging in neglected to see his actions as harassment, I did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do: I let it go. I decided that he was ugly on the inside, was an unhappy person and would never know real joy. That thought made me sad for him because I am an empathetic person, and empathetic people try to understand others, try to experience a little of their joys and pains. And he had no joy apart from causing pain. That was a truly terrible feeling to try to empathize with.

Thinking about a life that revolves around making others unhappy, well, that just made me see how lovely my life is. My biggest joys come from lifting a friend up, helping my children, writing, creating, praying, singing, pulling in the canoe, a hot cup of tea, weaving, sex (can I get an AMEN) and talking with my loved ones. The biggest joy for trolls: making other people unhappy. When researchers asked sadistic, narcissistic people what they most enjoyed they listed “online trolling” on the very top of their list.

As an empathetic person, I cannot understand treating another person the way that trolls treat me, other authors, my friends. I don’t have to. I can understand that my depression, my parenting, the issues that are so important that I lay myself bare in public, in hopes that other people who suffer will feel like they aren’t alone, are uplifting to some. And to others, they are just emotional soft spots guaranteed to get me riled up.

A troll(s) recently infiltrated a very important twitter chat group that a friend, mentor and badass woman I know hosts. It’s not important what the troll said. It is important that the group is one that welcomes those who have survived sexual abuse and tries to give them a voice. My friend said that this infiltration really hit home, and I know why it did. When it comes to her own trauma, the words of trolls slide off. But she hosts this chat in order to create a safe environment for people to speak, to open up, and she is worried that fragile people may have been hurt by the contact. Because she is a lovely person, the potential for pain in others brought her pain. You can control how trolls affect you, but you can’t control how they affect others who are struggling.

So, those of you who come across trolls, listen up! There are two things you do when a troll walks into your path. 1) You IGNORE THEM. Don’t engage. Ever. Act like your five-year-old sibling is being obnoxious and put up a brick wall. 2) Block and report offenders and ask others to do the same. They will come back, but if they have to create new identities enough, maybe they will decide their time is better spent elsewhere. Maybe not, but it won’t be your problem if you don’t engage.

Lastly, I was bullied a lot in school, and bullying and trolling are different. When a girl came up to me in Jr. High, called me fat ass, and spread rumors about me, I ignored her. Sure, I was fat, but she was narcissistic and mean, and that’s worse. You can’t change your personality as easily as you can change your weight. When she kept at it with the verbal insults and elevated it by shoving me, my anger hit level 10 (a very scary level to push someone with a mood disorder), I ended her bullying with a right hook and a kick to the stomach. You can’t give a troll a right hook because they are cowards hiding behind their screens. Trolls do not approach people in the daylight because out in the open they turn to stone. You cannot fight them, so do not try. When dealing with trolls, silence is golden. Let’s let them fight themselves into oblivion, shall we?

Interested in learning the science that supports my claim, see these related articles (clickable embedded links):

Psychology Today “Internet Trolls Are…”

Metro “Men who abuse women online are total ‘losers,’…”

 

The Scent of Memories

I took my daughter and son to a lavender field today, in honor of the Sequim Lavender Festival, which isn’t too far a drive from my house. It was my son’s birthday and we went to breakfast at a diner in Sequim. The diner was advertising the festival, and I told the kids about it when my oldest (5 years) asked, “Why is there so much lavender here? I like it!”

IMG_20150716_130042943

“I like it, too. It’s one of my favorite smells,” I told her smiling face. It was then that I decided to take them to a field near bye, the Purple Haze field, which is just lovely:

IMG_20150716_130557126-EFFECTS

IMG_20150716_131002721

I wasn’t convinced they’d be all that interested in the flowers, but I had to take them. You see, when I pick up a sprig of lavender, it automatically reminds me of my father. When I first moved to Washington state for college, my dad took my older sister and me to the Lavender Festival. We went to a few farms on the tour, and it was the first time I’d ever done anything like that. I mean, when you’re seventeen, touring a field of flowers shouldn’t be the highlight of your year, if you’re at all cool, but I have never been cool and it was the highlight of my year. The constant low hum of honey bees, busily slurping up nectar from the fields, never bothering to even land upon your hand, just jumping over your fingers when you reach out to caress the velvet flowers. The husky, syrupy scent sitting in the hot air, like you’re living inside a bottle of essential oils. And the cookies, chocolate, coffee, ice cream, all topped off by that super sweet aroma and taste, your breath flowery for hours after consumption…it was all so delightful, different and, well, fun. I loved that day, the day my father, sister, step-mother and I were able to bond over a purple, flowering bush.

IMG_20150716_131238072

So taking the kids to the farm held a great deal of significance for me, but I try to temper my expectations for my children. They are 3 and 5, and I expected that the excitement would quickly wear off. Though they loved choosing the stalks to cut, walking down the lanes of lavender and counting the innumerable fat bees, they did tire faster than I would have liked. It’s only natural. So, we took some pictures, and I steered them to the gift shop with barely a bundle of clipped lavender. The cashier suggested I could pick more for the bundle (as they are one price for a bundle no matter the size) and I looked at my tired, sweating children, holding their chosen gifts (simple lavender sachets, complimented by violet ribbons), and just shook my head, sadly. Of course I wanted to stay longer, but the fascination for my little ones was gone not long after taste-testing the honey the lavender bees made, which they made me buy because, as my daughter insisted, “The bees worked so hard to make it.” My son solemnly nodded at his sister’s statement, so it was settled. We bought their sachets, their honey and my meager bundle of lavender, which I figured I would just leave to sit in the car, so it wouldn’t smell so much like kid feet.

Once buckled in, my daughter held her sachet out to me. “Smell it, mom.” I took it from her and breathed in quickly, almost grumpily. Immediately, my mind was taken back to my father, his own lavender in his garden, they day he took us to the fields, how he would sprinkle lavender in with his wood stove during the winter, the mingled mixture of burning wood, smoke, and lavender forever imprinted in my brain as “dad’s” scent. I smiled genuinely at her and I said, “I love that smell. It smells like Papa Root. You didn’t meet him, but that’s what it reminds me of.”

Her eyes widened in defense when she answered, “No. It smells like you. Lavender is a mom smell. When I smell it, I remember you.” Tears filled my eyes, and I tried not to cry for joy, for sorrow, for mourning, for love. The scent of memory is so powerful. If I die young, as my father did, I know that I’ve given my daughter something powerful, a scent memory that will make her smile, that she can access no matter what. We forget what people look like, when we lose them. Not entirely, no, but they become unclear to our mourning minds. But we never forget scent. A man walks by wearing Cool Water cologne, and I think, I remember when Anthony wore that to our first date. He never wears it, anymore, and his scent is different to me, but, no matter what, Cool Water reminds me of our first date.

I wrote a lot about memories in Monochrome¬†because, to me, memory is everything. What we choose to remember can make or break us, as humans. As a mother, when I suffered from a depression so great that I wanted to leave this world, memories of my father (too young to die, removed from the world before he could live), memories of my daughter (her chime laugh, the way she smelled like milk, soft soap and powder), memories of my mother (how her eyes always smile, even when she’s mad), and memories of my husband (how his hair falls into his face in black silk cascades, how he frowns when thinking and sleeping, his forehead crinkling in a familiar pattern) reminded me of my joy.

Think about the scent memories that linger in your mind and what they do for your soul. These powerful bodily responses are so amazing to me, so fathomless and wonderful. They are far more precious than the fuzzy images that my brain can’t seem to settle on the older I get. When I asked the question, “What would you do to protect your most precious memories?” for my book tagline, it wasn’t because I wanted something catchy, though it is that. It was because that question saved me from myself when all I could think was, I want out. At my worst, I chose to remember the beauty of life and it saved me. I planted lilies and lavender for my dad, lit a match and imagined my mother was next to me, smelled my husband’s unnameable scent on his pillow, and breathed in deeply when holding my child. I focused on the memories that brought me joy, and I decided that life was beautiful. I try to remind myself to do that often, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

When it hits the fan, and you don’t know why…

file6461281015948

S#%t hit the fan the last two nights, and I’m not really sure why. Yesterday morning, I was awoken by the feeling of pressure on my chest, my arms were heavy and buzzing with a tingling sensation and a crippling fear disabled my ability to make a choice about what was happening. Something/someone was trying to keep me down, maybe suffocate me; it felt evil and oppressive. I felt like a child who wouldn’t come out from under her sheets, but not because I didn’t want to. My eyes would not focus enough to open and my arms felt as heavy as waterlogged electric poles. My mind screamed reason behind the terror: anxiety attack. You’re having an attack, so breathe. Even with reason yelling at me to breathe, and my body sort of (not really) cooperating, it took ten minutes to come back down, to be able to open my eyes and sit up.

But all day yesterday the heaviness never left me. My body stayed exhausted: maybe from lack of sleep, maybe from the fight, maybe from the fact that I haven’t been able to workout intensively in 3 1/2 months, maybe it was because I finally turned in my book to layouts and I’m done editing it and that worries me because it will be in it’s imperfect but done stage forever, maybe it’s because from 7:30 a.m. till 8:30 (and a few times in between) I am the non-stop mother of a three and five year old (who also does the housework, takes care of a puppy, and tries to fit in signings, blog hops, writing, teaching part-time and working out but never can mange all of them successfully). Maybe it’s because I’m seeing a new counselor who does not know my history and is trying to figure out whether my bipolar diagnosis is correct and, if so, if/what medications are best for my symptoms, so I’m still unmedicated even though I feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed almost every day of my life. Prayer helps, but I feel like the answer is: you’re not well and probably should take medication.

I don’t know why, but last night I did not sleep even though my body felt like it was draped in a layer of heavy fog, even though I feel so tired that I didn’t even wake up to take my daughter to school because, after fighting the panic attack, waking an hour later was just too hard. I let her sleep and I let me sleep and it was so hard, when she finally woke up, to tell her that I missed taking her to the bus. And feeling ashamed that I couldn’t do the most basic of activity because my body just stopped working due to…stress, I guess?

I can feel the anxiety behind my skin, sitting like a 1,000 lb monster who is simply resting his arm on my head now, but is thinking he might need a piggy back ride soon. This post is not hopeful, and I’m sorry for that because I know it will get better. But help/change seems to come so slowly when you really need it, can almost not function, but have to. And that’s the bottom line. I have to function. My kids need me to help them and they need to set a standard of how to deal with the intangible sicknesses that might plague them. I’ve been asked before: “Oh, what do you have to be so stressed about? You have food, a home, people who love you…” Everyone has his/her own trauma. I have food, a home, people who love me, but I remember not having a home, not having enough money for food, feeling all alone in the world and none of those things compare to the intangible fear that plagues me now. I have had my share of easy to relate to trauma, but it is this hard to describe and impossible to see trauma that scares me the most. How do you fight what you cannot see?