I want to say upfront that I believe in ethics with writing, which includes disguising people, so they aren't easily recognisable to the general public. The challenge I have with the memoir I am currently finalising, is that some might have a guess at who the characters are, as it involved social media. Hence, I have filtered certain stuff out, including obvious identifying features. This is so I can tell my story, while also respecting others privacy.
I usually only write about people, if they had an impact on me in some way. Either I really liked them or they were highly irritating (some people are in both categories).
I was weighing up whether to give her another name, but that's more names for me to choose and track, so I'm just going to call her what I've called her in the memoir: Angela. Now, I know Angela reads my blog. So, if anything, this blog post is for her, responding indirectly, after I've had a chance to think things over.
Angela knows who Maxwell is in my story, as I used to be friends with Angela and Maxwell (although they weren't friends with each other). There can be some friction when one has friendships with different views.
I'm aiming to release my memoir, Bipolar Courage: are you sure you're not autistic yet? by September 2023. Social media is a tangled web, hence it's extra challenging, as certain people in certain circles will guess who people are and some are prone to blabbing.
I haven't detailed all her personal business in the book, nor will I here but I included her in the book because she is relevant to some of the storyline, plus she is in the 'I liked you but you irritated me too' category (same as Maxwell). A main theme of the book is 'are online relationships real?'
To my surprise, Angela recently contacted me, apologising for how our friendship ended over three years ago. I agreed to have a chat with her, even thought I was suspicious, especially as she was involved in some recent drama with some brats and bullies who are keen to bait me (not going to give them the satisfaction).
Anyway, I had three rocks with silver as a base coat, waiting for a painting. Sitting on my desk for weeks. I tend to paint two or three rocks at at time, then put them out on my walks for others to find (kids love them). Incidently, it was Angela who inspired me to try rock painting, even though I'd painted on other surfaces. I usually use acrylic paint pens on rocks, for a smaller, easier, meditative project than getting my paintbrushes out. I'm still working through the ice-cream container of rocks that a rock-painting enthusiast gave me.
Improvised art can help express how I feel, even when I'm not sure what I'm feeling. I painted the rock with the spiderweb, a spider and a flying insect barely escaping the web, just before the conversation. I named it 'It's a trap!' after I painted it.
I tend to doodle if I'm needing to listen to someone (eg with video calls). I decided to doodle on a rock, which turned out to be the above rock, which I've named 'Masked Bandit.' There are some metaphorical and symbolic themes linked to both Angela and myself, but I'm not going to detail them.
Anyway, painting helped to keep me calm, as it was a pretty intense conversation, with some tears both sides (I don't cry easily these days). The intensity reflects in the colours. It was improvised patterns. I used to draw patterns as a kid to occupy myself. Anyway, that's going off on a tangent.
But the main thing I guess I wanted to say, is that I use colour and doodling to help stay calm. I used paint pens which need to be used more slowly that when I write with felt pens. So that helps slow things down too. (I can tend to talk too fast, which then frustrates the other person). So, doodling and painting can be a self-regulation tool.
Incidently, my psychologist said that teenagers are often given things to doodle with in court cases, to help calm them. I got into trouble in a workplace for doodling, as I was accused of 'not listening.' Doodling helps me to listen better. I actually can't take in what someone says with forced eye-contact.
Immediately after the conversation with Angela (by video call), I decompressed by painting the seahorse, which I've called 'Sea Dragon.' It has symbolism for me. Generally, a dragon represents courage for me.
Angela expressed near the end of the call that she would like to talk again. I said I would need to think it over. Mainly because what has gone down. I cannot risk being mobbed again by those linked to her politics. I've been called non-partisan by those who have bothered to get to know me better, but people insist on forcing labels onto me anyway, and demonising me.
I'm not going to detail what Angela and I talked about, other than to say that I think both parties found the conversation to be useful. There were some serious misunderstandings to clear up linked to some drama. I'm afraid that I can't trust her given she's currently linked to some bullies who are interested in harming me. (I actually told her I can't trust her and why).
So I let her know that I don't think there's any point talking further. No point trying to salvage a friendship, that turns out I valued more at the time. I accepted her apology but to me, actions speak louder than words. Change won't be overnight. It will take time and effort and support.
There's no question in my mind, that Angela is struggling currently. I'm not the person to be able to support her directly. Generally, friends and family aren't the best with more complex issues. Whilst I did a lot of my own processing creatively, it did help a lot to have someone to talk to in a therapeutic capacity (friends and family don't make good therapists).
I do know what it's like to blurt things out on social media (and even my old blog, Bipolar Courage). Guilty as charged. However, there are always consequences. There is drama, hurt feelings etc.
I have deleted some drama blog posts, as a gesture of good faith after Angela's personal apology. Also, to signify personal growth. We're all a work-in-progress and anyone who believe's they've 'arrived' is deluded.
The reason drama escalated is that I was sick of being harrassed and lied about for years on end (by another ex-friend, zero chance of reconciliation after what went down). I felt like I needed to set things straight, whether people believe me or not.
I have already privated the most vulnerable videos on YouTube and deleted most photos and videos from public social media since moving on from advocacy. It's partly a safety thing, as anyone can pretend to be anyone.
I don't want to talk directly to Angela again, mainly because I don't want to get tangled up in all the never-ending drama and risk being mob bullied again, by those she interacts with. I was really surprised she did some of the things she did but I can also understand that she's not coping very well. But then, as a side effect, others aren't coping well, either. Perspective can be severely distorted when one has mental health struggles and also when captured by ideology. I know first-hand what that is like.
There are hurt people both sides that I've seen lately online. There's not actually just two sides. There are multiple sides, like a polyhedron. A lot of people are hurting. I don't want to take sides. I can't feel safe in a friendship if there's ongoing drama and what I say gets blurted out for others to harm me with, over crappy politics (I don't even like politics).
I can stand back and look at the bigger picture. I've been told by clinicians that I'm insightful, even when I'm unwell. This blog post is my indirect way for saying something futher, than is generalised, so others might relate to it.
A reviewer of my first memoir said they liked that I handled the difficult subject matter in a neutral way, without taking sides. I am trying to do that again but this time, it's more focused on online relationships and leaving out explicit content. I'm half-expecting to get bombarded with malicious reveiws again over crappy identity politics.
My recommendations here are broader, for those who are vulnerable, given watching some recent events blow up.
Safety first. If you choose to use social media, use it wisely. It's easy to get caught up in drama. Someone always gets hurt. My psychologist has emphased to me again and again, safety first. Also reminded me that involvement from mental health services over the last three years or so has been because of cyberbullying.
Stay off social media platforms like Twitter, as they are too prone to mob bullying. By design, they are set up for conflict, without nuance. It's toxic. The identity politics stuff is toxic too. I am trying to avoid politics as much as possible, even editing it out of my memoir as much as possible.
When triggered (from trauma) or dysregulated (mental health issues), step away from social media for a bit until calm. Same when extremely anxious (tend to read too much into things in this state). Jotting some things down into a journal to perhaps revisit later in a blog post, is something I do sometimes. I journal in my own language, plus lock my journals away from prying eyes.
Vulnerability takes courage but don't show your vulnerabilties publicly when bullies are circling like vultures. Some even boasting how much of a bully they are. Well, tables will turn one day and they will be picked apart by vultures themselves.
Be super careful who you confide in. They can turn on you just like that and spread your personal business, with malicious intent. Have boundaries with friendships. If someone has no hesitation in doxing someone (identifying sensitive information made public with malicious intent), then what's going to stop you from being next?
Look at other ways to process, than going straight online when still raw. On social media, once it's out there, it is easily screenshot and spread around. (I have screenshot public stuff in certain situations but it defintely escalates drama).
One of the reasons I have ditched my old blog (Bipolar Courage) is that I made a decision to move on from advocacy and to try stay out of drama, moving forward. Simply because it's bad for my mental health plus a huge waste of my time and energy. Sometimes, drama is entertaining when it's banter but it can quickly escalate to mob abuse. There's a high risk that at least one person gets hurt. By hurt, I don't mean a bruised ego and reputation (I don't care for reputation, after all, I don't have one). But hurt, I mean active suicidal ideation.
Try not to see people as all good or all bad. One of the main reasons I decided to write about Maxwell is to show the complexity of a troubled human being. The antihero (both heroic and villianous traits).
Tips for processing trauma creatively
I am still in therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It's not actually an excuse to say, 'I was triggered,' for a pattern of repeatedly hurting people, when hurting. It can be an explanation but it's not an excuse. I've been fortunate to access paid therapy in New Zealand and I have a good match with a clinical psychologist, where I can vent about anything, in confidence. She also said she's learned from me, especially my creative expression as therapy, accessible to anyone.
Here's a blog post I wrote in 2019 that is still relevant: Express to process trauma. It's rare that I experience intense anger, as I shut down intense emotion so much. One way to express without anyone getting hurt was to scribble messy swear words download all the rage onto paper, while also swearing under my breath. It's like wave that peaks, then calm again. That way, no one's gotten hurt by lashing out with hurtful words (I can slice and dice people with words, when I need them to back off).
Also, by scribbling on paper or ripping up cardboard, I haven't been hurt by trying to bottle it up. Some of the download pieces went into an art as therapy exhibition. I recently went to an art exhibition by a young man who has emotional dysregulation difficulties. The canvas had swear words and was stabbed. That's a whole lot better to deal with his rage than to take it out on the community.
With art as therapy, anything goes - messy, ugly, weird, whatever. There are no rules. I usually listen to music that fits my mood, so I don't over thing things. Anyway, I'm going off on tangents again. I have plenty to say but I am more selective what I say and where I say it, these days.
I probably won't mention recent events in my memoir, given I'm now finalising it. I tend to blog now when I have something linked to say that I hope will help others.
The three rocks were painted with acrylic paint pens, over a layer of acrylics painted on. Sealed with acrylic spray varnish. A few touches of nail polish to finish.
Disclaimer: the author of this blog is not an expert by profession and her opinions should not be taken as expert advice.