Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

Monday, April 06, 2015

My Side Of The Story

I need to tell my side of the story. The other party had months of telling the story their way. I stayed silent, out of respect for whatever needs they had to heal. I stayed silent because I did not wish others to feel like they had to choose sides. Did that silence have a cost to me? Of course it did. I no longer care about any moral high ground. I care about getting this out of me, told in a place deliberately removed from that world of likes and reblogs and comments.

I became intimate with someone though social media. That intoxicating rush of closeness heightened by the projection-focusing lens of the internet. Against my better judgement, against what my IRL friends warned me, we tried to turn it into some kind of relationship.

That relationship lasted three weeks. It became clear very quickly that it was untenable. The way the other person was acting, especially with regards to my social media, kept reminding me uncomfortably of relationships I have been in that had turned abusive. I am not making judgements about my ex's behaviour in relation to that abuse; I am saying that that specific behaviour made me deeply uncomfortable, for deep emotional reasons.

I tried communicating with them about it; this didn't work. This person preferred to take their imagined or projected version of my motives - assembled through picking out selected bits of my social media - to my actual statements about what I was and wasn't feeling. Faced with this impasse in communications styles, I took the painful step of ending the relationship.

I removed myself from social media for a week to try to work through my own complex reactions and needs. When I came back, I made a brief attempt at 'friendship'. This, too, proved swiftly untenable. The behaviour which made me uncomfortable was not diminishing, it was escalating. Since the direct method hadn't worked, I am not proud to admit I tried indirect methods - I decided to "give them a taste of their own medicine" and use the methods they used on me, a blog post full of subtexts and passive aggressive references to their own social media and veiled requests that they knock it off, in the hopes that seeing someone treating them the way they were treating me would instil some sense of empathy or at least shame and get them to stop. Yes, you can only imagine how this backfired.

So I cut them off. I'm very keen on an advice column called Captain Awkward, who advocate that if "trying to be friends with your ex" turns into a reprise of all the negative parts of your relationship, it's best to initiate a no-contact zone, forcibly if needed. Block them or hide them on social media. Get on with your life. It sort-of worked. But the problem is that social media is by its nature a porous medium. When you share a fandom, and one blogger with 1000 followers is constantly providing a stream of "Why did you break up with me, wwhhhyyyyy?" pity-posts about a blogger with 200 followers, there is a kind of social pressure. (I don't know. Maybe "I got the vibe that you were someone who would shit-blog a vulnerable person with mental health issues for several months solid in front of our entire community" is not a valid reason to break up with someone? I kinda think it is.)

I concentrated on my own interests; I worked on my own deep psychological issues; I did my best to make other friends. Social stuff is hard for me. I'm a spiky, difficult person, who has been made paranoid thanks to experiencing genuine stalking (I'm not talking this dumb social media creeping; I'm talking people travelling long distances by car or plane to turn up on my doorstep, or at my work, sometimes involving personal danger and destruction of property) and relationship abuse that turns people's stomachs when I talk about it. Experiences like this make it even more terrifying to try to reach out to people, and make me roll in a ball even harder when people (innocently or not) make me uncomfortable.

I did a dumb thing. I slipped up; once. I don't even remember why; I normally keep this person blocked off my dashboard. I clicked through to their Tumblr. The first thing I saw was them making a bunch of posts about someone they childishly called "My Enemy". I thought little of it; they're forever having feuds with their family, their neighbours, people online. I read a little further, and there were more posts about this "Enemy". Stuff that made it clear they were talking about me. Stuff that made it clear that they were still, months later, going through my social media feeds and picking out little details about my life - down to aspects as personal as what haircut I wanted to get - and keeping a running commentary about it on their blog, in front of hundreds of people, many of whom were mutual followers and people I thought of as my friends. (People whose likes and reblogs had, funnily enough, tapered off.)

MY BLOOD RAN COLD. This wasn't discomfort, this was actual palpable, cold-sweat fear. That someone I dated for three weeks had unilaterally declared me their "Enemy", launched an apparent war against me, and was picking through the online equivalent of my rubbish for little things to shit-blog about me. I do not know what their intention was in posting this stuff. I only know the result: sheer terror.

That taught me not to succumb to curiosity or nostalgia. I haven't looked at their Tumblr in the weeks since. I became more ruthless about Tumblr Saviour. But the problem is, fear works more strongly with things you can't see (monsters under the bed or in the half-dark of the closet) than things you can. This stuff that makes for such gripping storytelling or is mildly amusing when we do it to celebrities, is actually terrifying when it is happening to you somewhere you can't see.  It colours all of your online interactions with bog standard web creepers - and lord knows I have enough of them. I have creepy dudes on web forums like ILX and WATMM who like to study my Twitter and Flickr for little titbits to carry back to threads, and part of the *joy* of it for them, is knowing that I can see them doing it, and can do nothing to stop them. (Hi, Darraghmac, if you're reading this! Yes, you're precisely what I mean when I talk about a "creeper". If you don't like me naming your behaviour, I'm sure you'll take it up on ILX. Repeatedly!) This is the gross, slimey downside to existing on the internet in a body marked as female.

It started to seep into my dreams, into my paranoid-delusional thoughtworms. My mental health suffered, sometimes badly. I'm not innocent; I've done similar things to celebrities, especially crushes. That obsessive scouring of the internet for any and all details, photos, tweets, updates to their website. The way it warps your sense of consent: "Well, they wouldn't have put this on the internet if they didn't want me see it." (But how does consent play out when someone has deliberately told specifically you "This is making me uncomfortable. The internet offers me no way of forcing you to stop, but I am now asking you - I would like you to stop.") This is the supreme irony - this person started pursuing me because I wrote fan fiction about a celebrity (fan fiction whose research involved me picking through that celebrity's online waste) that addressed all of these complicated issues of obsession turned ugly. (Writing into which I poured mine own issues about being controlled, stalked, abused by IRL people, to make the situations believable.) This is the terror of intimacy; making yourself vulnerable, handing strangers a manual stating "this is how to really, deeply hurt me".

So I found myself acting compulsively, bizarrely, with relation to another celebrity, in a weird mirror of mine own fears. At first, I didn't know why. It was just somewhere between OCD and that artistic muse which compels me to draw the same subject until I've exhausted and/or perfected it. But the more uncomfortable I've been feeling with mine own behaviour towards this celebrity, the more my dreams, my thoughtworms, my fears point me back towards this situation I've been describing. This has, actually, been traumatic. And one of the most awful parts was the feeling that I literally could *not* talk about it, because to talk about it would be to invite more of that awfulness down on my head. But yes, it has been traumatic and hurtful. Pain has been caused; damage has been done. Someone I once cared about; someone I *believed* cared about me, turned into all of my nightmares.

The worst part? I've been there myself. A decade or more ago, I'd gone through those catastrophic breakups where I couldn't let go and dragged all of my friends through hell going on and on about it. The only difference between that and this is that in those days, there was no social media to endlessly rub until the wound becomes a blister, then becomes a great, bleeding open sore. I know there are many people who will believe this is some kind of rough justice, some kind of karmic rebalancing, some kind of "a taste of your own medicine" for my own inexcusably bad behaviour with my own exes, when I was in my turbulent 20s and even my early 30s. Maybe it is. I don't want to demonise my ex. I think they are a damaged person who has been badly hurt, and is lashing out because of their own emotional history and issues. I do not wish to hurt them more than they have already been hurt, but I also cannot pretend that their behaviour has been without consequences for me.

This ends here. I have now told my side of the story. I made a mistake, in entering a relationship. I made mistake after compounded mistake during the breakup. That is all there is to tell, and I have told it. Now I must be at peace. But part of that peace is refusing to carry it on, and letting go of a celebrity projection which has become unhealthy indeed. The exorcism is now concluded.