` Without my taste for critical thinking and unlocking the mind, I wouldn't have been able to overcome most of my trauma-related impairments, see my way out of a trap I didn't even know I was in, as well as discover more delusions of the world that aren't even talked about in the skeptical community.
Last week, I went to Michael Shermer's lecture at Town Hall concerning the subject of his latest book, The Moral Arc. It got me thinking about the information I was processing from the night before, a realization about my ex -- who I'll call "X" from now on.
` Basically, I had just realized that X's acting as though nothing was wrong was all part of his trying to make me doubt my grasp of reality, and that's why I can't stand him when he's being really nice.
` After telling me that I was crazy, "killing" him slowly, and that I had been hypnotized into being some sort of 'attack robot', and that I shouldn't talk to other people about it because they don't know what's "really going on", etc. he has continued pretending as though everything is fine.
` Wait -- what!?
It's not just that he won't acknowledge the extreme damage he's done to my sanity and health, but that he acts as though it never happened. I haven't been the same since the significance of this fact hit me so hard that I was physically recoiling as though I was being beaten.
` In those moments, when I told a friend about what was going through my head, my voice came from so close to my spleen that I could barely even spit out words over the grunts of involuntary rhythmic recoiling.
` My voice was so guttural that I imagine I sounded like one of the hypnotized victims in Bob Larson's exorcism games. "What kind of sick person does this to someone?" I kept growling. "Oh my GOD!! OH my GOD!!! WHAT!??!!"
As Shermer was going on about how reason has helped us to overcome senseless brutality, slavery, ignorance, fear, prejudice, superstition, etc., I thought about how it could be that people started out that way to begin with. I realized it was because everyone acted as though it was normal.
` That is the most insidious part, yet finally I can appreciate it. When no one bats an eye, it seems as though everything is being done the right way, and that you're crazy for saying otherwise. Of course, people today are not generally near the pinnacle of morality -- there is probably quite a ways to go. And how is it that this goes so unnoticed?
` Because we act as though nothing is wrong. To take an extreme example, how is it that parents can allow a tumor on their daughter's head to grow to the size of a soccer ball until she dies in agonizing pain? Because, to that family, it's just normal to believe this is all part of God's plan.
` It's not just abuse and neglect that is the problem, but the mentality that this is the way things should be. And to someone who has been severely damaged by this, acting as though they have not been harmed only hurts them on a deeper level -- or kills them in some cases.
This is why so many false beliefs are dangerous. Even if you don't believe the BS that supports some sort of abuse, but are are surrounded by people who do, and who act like it's normal, that alone is damaging to you:
` In order to function in life, it is common to develop a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in order to see abusive people in a positive light. It's even worse when we think their abusive actions are reasonable. This is what we may do when we want to get along with those we don't agree with, and in these cases it can be quite dangerous.
` As children, for example, most of us were hit by our parents as punishment. As far as improving behavior goes, this is ineffective, emotionally damaging, and teaches the child by example that might makes right and that they deserve to be physically assaulted by someone bigger than them.
` Statistically, the lasting consequences include lower IQ and a variety of emotional, social, and relationship problems. I remember learning about all this in college and saying to the entire class, "How can this be? I really feel this is right, and science actually agrees with my feelings!"
Why I felt this way, I wasn't exactly sure, but in the past year or so I've really thought it through: When one spouse hits the other, that's domestic violence. The police can be involved because legally, this is considered assault. The spouse that is being assaulted also has the ability to leave the situation.
` But the small, defenseless child who doesn't know any better requires the parent for survival. And when the parent (or even older sibling) hits the child, and no one steps in to prevent this assault, everyone acts like it's the way it should be afterwards.
` Thus, these children bond with and develop a trust of people who abuse them, often believing for the rest of their lives that they deserved to be hit. No one apologizes, everyone acts like it's okay, and the child grows up thinking that violence is a lot more important in conflict resolution than it actually is, and will probably continue the cycle of violence, believing it to be necessary.
This, indeed, mirrors the insidiousness of government propaganda. Making a horrendously bad idea seem like a good idea, such as the "War on Drugs", immensely damages society: This is the main reason why a much higher percentage of the US population is in prison than all other countries.
` Not only does this BS ruin the lives of drug addicts (who already needed help), as well as responsible users, and their families, but it literally treats "nonviolent drug offender" victims as horrible criminals and drives up black market violent crime to an enormous extent.
` On top of that, banning drugs like marijuana and psychedelics has seriously impeded scientists from studying them and discovering their many uses in medicine and neurological research, which are only just now being rediscovered since the 1960's.
` What kind of sick people believe that this anti-drug culture is virtuous? Well, if you are conditioned to think that it is normal, and are emotionally attached to people who think it's a good thing, you may well accept any kind of abuse from the government as justified.
` I could go further with this line of thinking about the government, but I'd rather take a 90-degree turn here before I paint my own self as some kind of extremist heretic. I'm saving that for another time.
Instead, I shall go back to Michael Shermer and the first time I'd run into him, in the downstairs of Town Hall before a lecture in 2006. (Blog post about that.) I told him that I had switched out the homeopathic remedy of this guy I'd recently met -- who was of course X.
` "X" kept going on and on about how great his homeopathic remedy was working, for two weeks, until I finally told him The Truth. He didn't believe me at all because it was "working" so well, so I showed him the video evidence.
` Then, X told me that he knew on some level that had I switched the remedy out all along (because it tasted different), that it really hadn't been working as he had just been saying it was, and that I should be ashamed of myself.
` What was I thinking of, trying something so dangerous as to switch his eyedropper bottle of Popov's vodka with Smirnoff? (And yes, I blogged about that several times as well!)
` It seems ridiculous now, but at the time I felt as though I had committed some horrible offense, so I told Shermer about it. He said something like "That's how I think you should treat 'em."
That helped me to feel better for a while, but then X played a game where he cast me as some sort of obnoxious debunker out to prove that there is no "spirit-like energy" in drops of plain water (or vodka, in this case) which causes medicinal effects.
` X claimed that I was closed-minded if I didn't try homeopathy to cure my conversion disorder. I told him that the burden of proof was on him, not me, but he kept telling me that the reason I wouldn't try it was because I was afraid that it would work and that I'd be proven wrong.
` I rolled my eyes when he told me how famous his homeopath was -- wow, he's famous for being a fraud? -- but X insisted that I actually felt impressed by this and just didn't want to admit it. Huh?!
All of this should have been a warning sign, but just having started life out on my own, away from the abusive people I had just left, I had thought that I had only brought this situation on myself and had to somehow "own up" to it.
This homeopath ("Dr." Olsen) said that drops of plain vodka or milk sugar, infused with this "energy", worked great on such mental and psychosomatic conditions as constant perceived numbness. This wouldn't surprise me at all, since these symptoms are caused by thoughts and emotions.
` Many times I walked into his building so embarrassed that I covered my face, and he was always puzzled as to why none of the lumps of sugar ever worked on me.
` Just prior to starting this, I had briefly been taking birth control medications for menstrual problems, yet they made me extremely sick, in constant pain, and suicidally despondent. I had just stopped taking them, so I began feeling a lot happier and healthier, and X insisted that this was because of the remedies.
` There was a lot of fighting over this matter, and for this reason I dreaded the prospect of feeling happy. Seven hundred dollars later, when I was able to finally get X to look at the scientific research, he agreed that indeed, homeopathy was bunk and worthless.
` Puzzlingly, he asked me if it was okay if I didn't go back for another remedy. My response was exasperated -- "of course I don't want to go any more broke buying BS, especially now that you believe me!" The only reason I had gone along with this was to prevent him from thinking that I was stupid, stubborn, and narrow-minded.
In hindsight, of course, I shouldn't have cared at all what he thought of me, or his harmful belief in abject quackery, and should have been spending my time finding another guy. I was continually being approached by men everywhere I went, true, but he did seem a lot smarter and talented than the rest -- because he really was, in some ways.
` More importantly, he was the first person to treat me as an adult who could make decisions, and was even interested in reading some of my blog posts. He was also the first person to validate the fact that I had certain problems that others would not acknowledge.
` Importantly, he was the one who got me to go to college, despite not even having an elementary school education. I wouldn't have thought to even get a two-year degree if it weren't for him -- yet he also seemingly made it as difficult as possible for me, which is why it took five years!
` Over all this time, whenever I had a health/mental/kinesiologic problem that he denied existed, he would tell me that I was crazy, so I thought it was just me. Little did I know, he was refusing to acknowledge my actual problems just like others had done before him.
` Even more, he was keeping me dependent upon him, and surrounded by crazy roommates who would aggravate the PTSD and conversion disorder every day, keep me awake all night, and otherwise interfere with my homework and health -- for six years!
The first TAM I went to, in 2012 (just after we had kicked out all the crazy roommates), ended in me resolving to leave X, because I had told some skeptics about several worrying experiences I'd had with him.
` There are many dramatic tales, some of which I had blogged about when they happened -- especially the one where he took part in almost drowning me in the ocean while insisting that I was just being a baby -- but I will share only one brief story here:
` We had just moved from upstairs to downstairs at a terrible run-down place that we knew had gas leaks, plumbing leaks, etc. The gas pipe in this apartment was right by my pillow, and the first night there I smelled mercaptan, the additive in natural gas.
` I told him about it and he merely asked if I was messing with him, because he didn't smell anything. I kept insisting that I did, and he finally said, "I believe that you smell gas, but I think the that reason is because you're hallucinating. Just go to sleep and stop keeping me awake!"
` This, after a lifetime of people trying to convince me that I was crazy, from my dad, the special ed teachers, to doctors, mental institution staff, etc. I mean, this runs deep, and this was hardly the first time he had done something like this to me (re: almost drowning).
` Humiliatingly and despairingly, we went over this night after night for two weeks, until finally, I insisted that he move over to my pillow, and like magic, he said he smelled the gas too! He immediately apologized profusely, found the leak using soapy water (which I didnt know could be done), and shut off the gas. It was that simple -- so, why didn't he do this in the first place?
I was too busy feeling the relief of finally being vindicated and declared 'sane' once again to really think about the ethics of what had happened. I simply thought this was a case of my not communicating clearly enough, and if only I had better social skills, this type of thing wouldn't happen.
` By this point, I had stopped being attracted to X, which I had blamed on my psychological problems and conversion disorder. Over the years, however, I started to think that perhaps it really was him. So, at TAM 2012, I told some people about these stories, and they were quite alarmed and said that I should never put up with this kind of BS from anyone.
` I agreed, although I realized that it had been years since he had done anything so heinous, so perhaps he had changed?
I had other complaints about him discouraging me or giving the impression that he thought I was crazy, so I had a little talk with him about that just after TAM. He said that either he had no idea what I was talking about, or that he was joking -- and it's true that I often would get upset because I didn't realize he was joking about something. Or so I thought?
` I figured that perhaps he had changed, so I decided not to just leave him outright. Besides, I didn't have a place to stay besides the house that we were trying to buy -- and later got defrauded by the landlords, etc.
` Also, the day after TAM, I met a hypnotherapist, who not only helped me to work through the PTSD (of 30 years) and conversion disorder (after 9 years), but eventually began pointing out some of the horrible abuse that X was putting me through.
` I thought that perhaps he was just trying to turn me against X, as X would often tell me, but perhaps that was just part of the gaslighting. For a while, it was hard for me to say.
In September of 2012, X was horribly injured at work, and I took him to he ER. He was unable to get treatment afterwards, and to this day has never been able to open his insurance claim. In October 2012, his mother, who was helping us to buy the house so she could retire there, died unexpectedly, and the rest of the family did their best to prevent X from getting the inheritance.
` Because of my newfound health, I began trying to put together a podcast and writing more on my blog, but conditions became more and more insane. I still blamed myself, and at TAM 2013, I told more people about what was going on, and they said, "You seriously need to leave this jerk."
` I agreed, but it was becoming increasingly difficult as X became more controlling. I would probably have left, except I had to take care of him more and more, while he was becoming more incoherent from stomach paralysis and kept almost dying.
` I had to take him to the emergency room frequently, and began getting seriously ill myself. I had no privacy and it seemed I was always "on call". Even worse, X tried to prevent me from talking to other people about this, and kept talking about how I was trying to kill him through neglect and how horrible his friends thought I was.
I wrote very few blog posts, although most of them were about the unbelievable bureaucratic BS we were going through, and the abuse I was putting up with:
Our very own biggest insurance fraud fiasco ever
Just when Christmas lulled us into a false sense of security...
Around this time, I actually started calling him "Dad" because he was pulling the same crap as my own dad -- and his dad as well, of course. That's where he got it from.
` I only stayed around because I had no money to move out, plus he had nobody else to keep him alive and I couldn't let him die. We were supposed to get healthcare and worker's compensation back pay, which would solve both of our problems, but that was not to be:
In early 2014, I didn't have much internet connectivity and so began using my phone to post bits of this saga on Facebook, including my constant illness and lack of food, hypoglycemia, emaciation, and being able to fit into old pants again. So, my next blog post was majorly abbreviated:
I was hoping I would have some good news to share...
` In this one, I mentioned that on April 1, 2014, X had an appointment with a doctor who said that he would sign the insurance form, without even necessarily needing to examine the injury first. Once in the office, the doctor not only refused to sign the form, but wouldn't even look for evidence that the injury existed, on the grounds that he wouldn't find any!
Worst April Fool's prank ever.
Later on that day, X had two doctors laughing about what an idiot that guy was for not being able to diagnose an injury the size of a breakfast sausage. All this palpating on the injury, and their inability to refill his pain pill prescription, set him up for disaster later on.
` My mom was visiting at the time, and what I didn't mention in that post was that she had gone to bed at about 7:30 (10:30 her time) and I was up until 11:30 taking care of the various grow rooms. (We had replaced our crazy roommates with marijuana plants -- they are so much easier to get along with!)
` However, I didn't get to go to bed yet because X was sprawled out on the living room floor as he usually was, shaking uncontrollably, sweating profusely, and vomiting. I helped him to replace his shirts and puke buckets until 2:30 in the morning, when I finally went to bed.
` Right after this, X began convulsing to the point where had to go to the ER, and he roused my mom at around 3 a.m. (6:00 her time). As she had gotten plenty of sleep and I was desperately in need of it, she didn't bother waking me up and took him to the ER herself -- where they gave him a drug for stomach paralysis, which happened to be exactly what he needed.
I woke up the next day at 8:30, when they had just gotten back from the ER. He was already recovering from the toxic buildup and malnutrition that was making him so incoherent, frequently unable to walk, and falling asleep in random places.
` It was amazing how X almost seemed back to normal, I thought, until weeks later, when he started to tell me how ashamed my mom was at my not taking him to the Emergency Room. Yes, really.
` What kind of loving partner was I to cave into the sleep deprivation and make my poor mother drive him all the way to the ER at three in the morning? No matter that I was unaware of the whole drama and otherwise incapable of driving if I had been awake.
` I talked to my mom about this and she said that nothing of the sort ever crossed her mind, and that she thought there was no problem at all at the time. I did, too. She said that she was actually proud of me and my dedication to keeping him alive, as well as the plants.
` Which, by the way, were instrumental in his continued recovery and ability to get back to work in the absence of medical treatment, thanks to his invention of super-strong cannabis cream. I've written an article about this amazing story on another website:
The Power of Super-Concentrated Cannabis Oil (Yes, those are his fingers and marijuana plants.)
What I gradually came to realize, with help, was that he was making me doubt myself all the time. For example, he would often act threateningly towards me while we were crammed in the tiny, brightly lit, very noisy grow rooms.
` I would tell him that I was feeling seriously overwhelmed and frightened by this, and he would say that my "real" problem was that I would rather just be lazy and sit around all day, claiming to be ill. Except, I actually was ill quite a bit, especially with continual respiratory infections and isopropyl alcohol poisoning from cannabis oil production.
` Once, when we were cloning plants or some such, he was starting to freak me out and I said, "I don't want to be around you when you're like this." and left the room. Instead of trying to apologize or at least ask me to come back, he kept on working by himself until he needed to go to the ER.
` I didn't make him do that, he did it to himself. Yet, he blamed me for making him need to go to the Emergency Room. Yet, he still talked about planning to get married, and, I reasoned, why would he want to marry me if he thought I was capable of hurting him like that?
Some seriously scary gaslighting continued after TAM 2014, during which we were forced to vacate the house (easy for me, being in Las Vegas and all), and he managed to find a place that would allow us to keep our cats.
` Despite all the insanity, after he was through the methodone withdrawal symptoms, I eventually managed to pull myself out of the gaslighting enough to have a few good times and keep myself relatively healthy.
` Sometimes, I just fell back into the insanity, both because of his treatment of me, and because the new place was also full of crazy people. And fleas. Still, I did what I could to keep my goals in mind, about writing in Skepic Magazine and all that, and I chronicled a bit of that here:
Surviving and keeping sane whilst trying to transcend the asylum
Since my most recent newfound realization, I have felt as though X has a rifle pointed at me, and that I'm a deer. All I am to him is prey, and I cannot describe to you how creepy this feels. He has been targeting me all these years, undermining my competence, manipulating me into helplessness and victimhood.
` This even applies to something as innocuous as getting cats, which I was reluctant to do. It was just another way for him to control me. For example, it is important to wash your cat's dishes every day and clean their litter box several times a day, which I did -- and which he so often put me down for doing.
` He would insist that bacterial slime in the water dish was perfectly healthy for the cats, and sometimes he would put canned food in their dish for many days in a row, and shamed me into not cleaning up the dried crusts for weeks.
` And don't get me started on his conflicts over my insistence on cleaning the litter box, and my "unreasonable sensitivity" to the particles of cat shit in the air (and thus my mouth) when I'm eating. By the way, as a kid, my dad would insist on having a filthy litter box next to the dinner table and would punish me for wanting to eat upstairs or at least clean it.
` So yeah, I've had enough of this, and have been glad to get rid of the litter box when possible. Over the years, I have been quite glad whenever this happened, but even then X said I was crazy for thinking that it took two months for the smell to finally become unnoticeable to me. But it actually did -- ha!
And it's still going on. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was over at the apartment, visiting my cats and my belongings, when Miss Dilly had just demonstrated her lack of understanding of the concept of 'burying'.
` X said he would take care of it, but a while later it still smelled really bad despite him turning on the bathroom fan. Finally, I discovered that he hadn't cleaned it up at all, but rather lit a stick of incense nearby.
` Right, because cleaning the litter box more than once a day is waaay excessive. Even so, I'm really going to miss my cats, and they will miss me so much! They already do, since I'm not around much.
` If all goes well, it won't be long before I move the rest of my things out (mostly books) and leave him to pay rent alone. Not only is he making more money, but it turns out the devastating lack of a tax return last year was a mistake, so that was just filed. Even better, he may soon receive a settlement for never having his injury claim opened -- if not, it's onto law suit land.
` I may not have a place to move all of the rest of my stuff into, other than into another storage facility, but I'll do whatever I need to do to survive. Always have.
I don't much like playing the role of 'prey'. It sickens me to think of my situation this whole time. But I'm glad to be able to share what I've learned on this blog, in the hopes that it helps others in similar situations -- plus, it reaaaaally feels good to finally get this off my chest!
Now that my frontal lobes are working, I'm better able to read and write -- it's amazing what a difference this kind of stress makes! My personality keeps changing faster and faster, and I've gone back to reading as well! I've just read a large portion of Skeptic Magazine, which I've started getting in the mail once again, along with Scientific American Mind.
` I've missed this stuff, and now that I'm not constantly racking what's left of my mind to solve all these serious problems, I can go back to feeding it. And, yes, even playing the part of mad science writer -- and podcaster!
[Edit: If all this wasn't crazy enough, something else happened the same day Michael Shermer was in town, which I mentioned here: A real-life death-defying tale... and some unrelated cool photos!]