A mental health post with potential triggers?
This post should be subtitled: And other people’s problems
As I explained in Part 1, I have delayed onset PTSD. The original event happened when I was in my twenties, the PTSD surfaced in my forties, and I just turned sixty. So, I’ve had a while to deal with things. The PTSD, when it finally broke free from its little hiding box in my head, was pronounced and debilitating. It is much less so now, but still raises its head.
Something happened about eight years ago that was extremely damaging, and so bizarre it is hard to describe to anyone who wasn’t there.
I joined Second Life (SL) almost ten years ago, during the start of what has now been a decade of straight hell for me. SL was a refuge. It saved my life, literally. At one point I became so depressed that I didn’t even have the energy to log into Second Life itself. Instead, I started chatting with people on SL’s message board. It was a mostly fun place, full of banter. And then… (sound the ominous music) I ran afoul of a malignant narcissist of a troll. Troll also has a small herd of troll enablers. (The troll is male? female? “It” proclaimed to be in her thirties and a god-help-the-child single parent.)
If you think you know all about trolls, from Facebook, or reading things like the Washington Post’s comment section, let me tell you, those are child’s play, garden variety trolls. The idjits who troll with generic insults, moving from one poster to another, being total pains in our collective butts, well, you ignore them, and they move along.
My own troll was something much more. No matter what I did, she wouldn’t stop. She was (possibly still is, I don’t know) obsessed with me. Several people observed that she was like a kid with a malignant crush. I tried everything. I ignored her. I made fun of her. I replied seriously. I lost it on more than one occasion. I left the SL message boards. I left SL. I tried forgiveness. Other people tried to mediate. I created a new avatar so I could be in SL and be left alone. Troll had (has?) a blog that was at one time nearly entirely devoted to her so-called hatred of me. She would take screenshots of every word I ever uttered (that’s some bat-shit crazy dedication), take a snip out of context and then post a “See, this is why you should hate her too!” thing. Other people would ask me, “Did you know she just posted…?” Troll followed me around to other people’s posts. If I was talking to someone else, she’d come in and start trolling there, pulling the completely innocent bystander into the mess. There are SL message boards, Tweets, Facebook, all sorts of social platforms out there. She took her bile to probably all of them. To this day I can still stumble across some new-to-me piece of crap she wrote about me.
This went on for years. I was painted with her tar. People hated her, even most of her own flock, but other people now associate me with her. The worst was when people, who didn’t read, didn’t know what they were talking about (which is 99% of humanity), would exclaim, “Oh, you’re both the same!” Not even close, but that’s how these things go. I lost so-called friends.
I was, at that time, in the deepest depression I had ever experienced (the one I’m in now surpasses it). I had suicidal ideation. And this monster took away one avenue of support I had. She stole it. She shit in every pool. That was bad enough.
SL has a group supporting One Billion Rising, an international mass action to end violence against women (and a lot of other things now). Eight years or so ago, I decided to help with the events in SL. Troll got a hold of that news, and off she flapped with the rest of her gaggle. It was widely posted that I could not possibly have ever been raped. I am a drama queen. My motives were suspect, especially thanks to some of her bizarre clips of mine from past posts about something completely different. Troll made my participation in One Billion Rising a problem for me and the event. Yeah, that helped my PTSD.
Another time, far away from official SL, a nice average person and I were joking around and bantering. Some of it was definitely suggestive and some of my junior-high school level sex humor. It was off-color and fun. Then in slimes Troll. “See,” it waggled, “a real rape survivor would never joke about sex.” Rape survivors don’t talk about sex — don’t like sex. We were also tutored that for someone of my advanced age (early fifties?), it was disgusting to even be thinking about sex. (Troll is more obsessed with my age than I am.) It became a huge shitshow in that forum. Interestingly, a lot of her own flock said, “Too far, too far!” to her, though they are still with her. Many people thought it was oh so entertaining.
I had also been open about having PTSD. I didn’t say much more than that, but I let it be known. I’m not ashamed of it.
I know even if I’m doubting someone’s story, if it is traumatic like that, I give them the benefit of the doubt and keep things to myself. What if I were wrong? Troll was never wrong, in her mind.
Her actions, by the way, are why I cannot listen to our current POTUS. His modus operandi is identical to Troll’s. I start getting panic attacks if I see or read him too much, and he is too much in the news. It’s a problem.
Troll was setting off my PTSD from the get-go. I was in a bad state, and Troll made it so much worse. When Troll started in on, and wouldn’t let up on, my truth about my story, my assault, my life… it was a nightmare. I may have been shielded from its venom by Troll attacking my avatar, but the attacks were on me. The real life person was traumatized, for the amusement of otherS.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t just leave, I refer you back to the top of the post. If I confronted her, refuted her idiocy, I was screwed. If I ignored her, I was screwed. The stories continued. The attacks continued. It was lose-lose for me. I hate being pushed out of something. I get stubborn. SL was important to me. Even when I gave it up, the abuse didn’t stop.
This post is about the idiot things other people do to people with PTSD. This troll is a monster. The lesser trolls on the Internet, even though they are lesser, can also inflict a lot of damage.
Bullying is not just a problem for children on the Internet. People need to be aware of that. Things like Gamergate should have made that clear. In the increasingly volatile world we live in, I suspect adult bullying is increasing exponentially.
I still have lingering, substantial damage from Troll. I try not to give her that much control over me, but she has damaged my ability to trust, relate, evaluate, communicate… so much. My karma is forever bad due to the things I wish would happen to her, when I think of her, which is rarely these days.
Another form of other people’s stupidity about PTSD happened in one of my work places a few years ago. It happened repeatedly. This was in the hospital where I had cow-orkers. One cow-orker was in her early forties, and her bestie was in her twenties. They routinely talked loudly together in our open office. If one of them went to lunch and the cafe left the tomato off her sandwich when she specified tomato, then there would be minutes of chattering back and forth about how this then created bad sandwich PTSD. If this had happened once, I probably would have laughed along with them. Sandwich PTSD.
I’m not a fragile flower. I can take overhearing the occasional joke that is a little too close to home. Said cow-workers would also talk about “old” people (anyone older than forty), people not from “around here,” people with college educations. The PTSD thing was a favorite though. PTSD is funny. PTSD isn’t a real thing, you know. People make it up to get out of work. Maybe if you had your legs blown off in war, then that was legitimate PTSD, but most other things were silly over-reactions from drama queens. I never said a word. I just stared at my computer and pretended to work. I never let on I have PTSD to any of them. I may be crazy but I’m not nuts. These two would have so much “fun” that other cow-orkers would join in, with their own takes on PTSD. Five or six women all gaggled about, employed by a hospital, belittling and mocking PTSD.
We have a long way to go, folks.
(Sorry for the ramble, but this is pure stream of consciousness writing. It had to be.)
Featured image is a digital photograph of my bullied avatar in her watery home in Second Life, with no post-production. I love the shark swimming by the window. All rights reserved.