in pride of legions
circles surrounding the earth
love won and hate died
(c) Janni Styles
Inspired by the weekly poetry challenge here, try it if you like:
(c) Janni Styles
Inspired by the weekly poetry challenge here, try it if you like:
While I have heard you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar, I have to wonder about the life of the person who stated this because it is not always wise to be sweet as I have learned time and time again in trying to tolerate, maintain or repair relationships. Not all ships are created equal and not all relations are deserving of our loving kindness. This does not mean cruelty is in order either, simply that setting healthy boundaries or walking away is often the best choice to save ourselves. Staying in a situation that is unhealthy for us is the worst kind of punishment we could exact on our own psyche and well being but sometimes we find ourselves trapped in situations we could never have foreseen.
While I could include and discuss many relationships today I am going to talk about bullies. Where do they belong in our social system? Or do they belong at all? I say they are social misfits who do not belong near healthy people until they learn to behave with respect. My ex spouse, two sisters and their adult children are all perfect examples of bullies, they bully you shut, bully your opinion away and bully you into doing or saying what they want or they will go to greater lengths of abuse to try to make you pay for what is not even yours. I will save all the details of those experiences for my book on complicated relationships and how easily we humans can become stuck in the same troublesome patterns, trying again and again when the result is always the same: no good for us at all. A troublesome bullying neighbor is my subject in this piece.
Over a year ago a woman who speaks six languages fluently and was featured in magazines for her award winning interior design work in her youth moved into the apartment next door to mine. I was pleased because I figured she would make a great neighbor from the landlord’s description of her. On our very first meeting she gave me a clue to her personality by telling me “I don’t think the landlords know about your boyfriend.” I was shocked and sputtered out, “He does not live here, he only visits and yes they do know because they welcomed him when I moved here.” What I should have said was, “Oh. So this is who you are. Mind your own business and keep away from me.” I didn’t.
Instead, I tried to “overlook” things, be patient, kind and tolerant. The more patient and kind and tolerant I was, the more invasive she became. She is a hoarder of junk and all things junky looking which she tried to pile up on my patio shortly after moving in. I had to involve the landlord who told her to take her stuff off my patio and don’t put anything there again.
Things seemed to settle for a while after that until she left on a three week cruise last winter. All of her windows were open and I told the landlord. I did not tell him that when she calls me over to show me her latest junk acquisition the heat is excruciatingly high and yet all of her windows are kept wide open all the time. The landlord found her heat jacked right up, turned it off and closed all of her windows. Immediately upon returning home, she told me the landlord stole her rental agreement and some other things when he went in to turn down the heat. I knew the landlord would never do this but there was no convincing her.
Not long after this she was upset about her car being “keyed so badly it is big gouges on the whole side up and down from front to back.” She yacked it all out in a 45 minute exchange with me. That is another 45 minutes I will never get back. I tried telling her they did not, would not do that, that they have cameras all around the house and I suggested she involve them because maybe they could look at the tapes and see who did it. At this time I did not look at the car. She told the landlord who informed me there was a hairline scratch on her car not even the length of his hand and it could have happened anywhere, she may have even accidentally done it herself.
Still, foolish git that I am, when her dog was recently attacked by raccoons, I could see she was very distraught and loving my rescued animals as I do and have in decades past, I gave her a hug. The dog survived. And then her stuff slowly started inching further and further back over onto my patio.
She asked for help with a cover letter for a part time job and I did it. It was easy to write because in my late twenties I once owned my own business doing documents, resumes and cover letters. She offered money but had recently given me a huge jug of dish soap she found herself allergic to so I said we are even now, no worries. When her car was stolen from the staff parking at that work place, I listened because, again, I felt sorry for her. From working in the justice system I knew these cars are often stolen for a joy ride or to do some illegal deal or other and I told her it would likely be back in a week or so. It was.
She has to pass by my door to get to her apartment and in the fair weather I keep the screened door open for fresh air. She would say hi every time she passed and often stop more than once a day to talk. I began saying very silly things like “my kettle is boiling” (who knows, maybe my “inner” kettle really was, haha) just to get rid of her. She stepped in one day when I was using my washroom and I yelled at her, “I am using my bathroom!” She left but later came back to tell me some nonsense or other that I had no interest in. She has proven completely and totally impervious to normal social cues that would have the average person backing off instantly.
When I returned from a recent few days away for a family reunion she pounced on me at the laundry room just outside my apartment. She told me the landlord yelled at her while I was away and said “You women down there are evil! You are white trash and you don’t even deserve to live in my house.” I did not believe her and told her I find that hard to believe. What I believe now is that she was trying to incite me in the two-faced fashion of master manipulators to align me against the landlord. She failed.
She listens for me to open my door and runs out to talk. She hears me doing laundry and races out to talk. She plays her TV so loud that the junk TV talk shows I hate echo straight into my place, people onstage yelling and screaming at each other while the host eggs on the drama. Hard to believe that garbage is still on TV in my opinion and I’d rather have no TV than listen to all those time wasting dramatics. The last people I lived beside here for over a year just said hello in passing and never looked in my windows. She comes down the stairs in front of my place looking into my living room door and window the entire time, she doesn’t even have the courtesy to turn away or just pass without being nosy. I put up a curtain that sees me receiving less light than my already limited light down here and she just looks around it anyway.
At one point recently when her “visits” reached four times in one day, I told my boyfriend that I have to do something about her, I can’t take this for much longer. She interrupts my rest, my reading, my writing, my chores, my self care, she triggers my PTSD and my recovery time from her “Drama Queen” hurricane episodes. Not yet sure what to do about it, I aligned myself with the landlord who had expressed irritation at her stepping on their toes, painting the once soothing apartment a bunch of loud funky colors she did not have permission for among other things she has done to offend them. I told them I was going to be speaking to her about her invasive ways. They said I have their support.
Well. Just a couple of weeks ago she started inching still more of her crap back over onto my patio. Then a few days ago she said, “Look, I have this nice table you can use if you want to, I will put it against the wall outside your window there.” I told her I don’t really want it there. I said I like to look at the wall of green I have created and I don’t like things cluttered up. But I don’t have room for it, she said. Well, you should give it away or donate it then, I said. She ignored all I said to put the table on my patio. It was on wheels so I shoved it back over on her patio and then pushed all of her encroaching junk back there, too.
When I arrived home from errands she was waiting for me. She came to my door and said, “Did you move my stuff?” Yes, I told her, I didn’t like it and I don’t want it on my patio. Well I can’t even get in there now on my patio, she said. You need to get rid of some stuff, you have too much stuff, I said. To which she retorted: you have a lot of stuff, too. Nothing like you do, I told her and I am not trying to absorb your patio to store my junk either, you are. She said, I will put it all back. If you do, I told her, I will shove it all back on your own patio. I don’t care, she said, I will put it back, I will put it back, I will put it back! Well then, I said, I will involve the landlord. She said in a very telling statement common among bullying social misfits: “I don’t care.”
In the typical unaccountable methodical fashion of sociopath behavior meant to manipulate us into meeting their needs, she began blaming me, telling me “you are depressed, you need help!” Having had a lot of experience with this oppressive tactic from unhealthy people in the past, I told her, “You are so messed up, it has nothing to do with me at all. You need to stop being so pushy and listen for once in your life. Stay away from me, I am not your social life!”
She continued calling me names, attempting to make her abuse my fault and I told her she is going to get herself evicted if she keeps this invasive, disrespectful behavior up. At one point my boyfriend thought she hit me and stepped out on the patio to tell her to stop abusing me, told her that she needs to stop bothering me all the time. She denied it and he told her “I’ve seen what you do, you need to leave her alone.” It was actually her dog that jumped at me and knocked my sunglasses out of my hand. Still, she just shouted back, “You don’t even live here!” No recognition or acknowledgement of anything reasonable that is being said to her is certain proof of how messed up and disrespectful she really is.
In addition to what I said to her I told her I do not want to ever again hear her two-faced talking about our landlords. She denied doing so. I cited the examples listed above and told her not to speak for me to them either, I can speak for myself just fine. She said, I didn’t! Yes, you did, while I was away you complained about something and you said “we both” and I didn’t even know anything about it, I told her, I just don’t want to hear anything about the landlords from you ever again, do not include me in your wild imaginings.
She continued to tell me I was at fault in many ways I don’t need to list here, said she has learned what an awful person I am. Such are the abusive patterns of those broken individuals who can no longer use, abuse or manipulate us into doing whatever it is they want us to do. My last words before I came back in my apartment were: Stay away from me, I am NOT your social life.
Today is the first day of peace for me since she moved here. No back and forthing to my door. No bothering me when I did my laundry this morning. No jumping out her door as soon as she hears me exit mine or when she hears me coming down the stairs when I return home. No going up and down the stairs just to get another look into my place or talk without invitation and use up my precious life minutes.
If you know me at all as all of my long time friends and healthy, loving family members do since childhood, you know I am a loving, kind person who is all about the people and relationships. I am even considering changing my blog theme to focus on human relationships of all sorts because whether poetry, short story or a piece like this, it is always winds up being all about the people for me. Still, whether there is mental illness, abuse of any sort, sociopath patterns or meddlesome two-faced manipulators, I have learned I need to guard my kindness and save it for those deserving. A famous psychologist named Phil McGraw says “People tell us who they are.” They sure do. If we are listening.
Sometimes sugar and honey just turn the bees more aggressive so they sting you harder and more often. Know who your bees are before you feed them anything at all is the best thing I can think of to do. Off to enjoy more peaceful uninterrupted time to myself. Now that sounds really sweet to me. Ahhh, peace and quiet.
Hope to see you again soon.
(c) Janni Styles
Shame is a terrible thing. When you feel too ashamed to share how you are really feeling with anyone, it is a terrible dilemma to be in. Some of this shame I know too well myself from having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since a physical assault in 2012 and being too ashamed since then to say so as if I had created the condition myself. People shame us with their love of all things sunny and funny as if being “real” and “depressed” or otherwise hurting is a sin. It is not.
Just today in the bank I was so proud of myself for speaking out. The line was 40 deep and I began to overwhelm and panic, started visibly shaking which prompted a staffer to come out from her desk and ask me if I was alright. No, I told her, I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and all these people are panicking me. She took me into her office, helped me reset my forgotten password so I could use the bank machine. Only when I was at the bank machine did I realize the money will be dispensed in twenties and I did not want my rent all in twenties. Back in the now much shorter line I went to be served in a little under 15 minutes.
Just a few years ago I was afraid to say I have PTSD lest I be blamed, shamed or otherwise abused for having something I did not want or ask for. I suspect my mother, always known for being such a strong woman, felt shame when she thought of committing suicide and this shame prevented her from sharing her thoughts with the very people who could have supported her through that very dark period of her life. My hunch is she did tell one or two church going friends who likely shamed her further because according to some faiths “suicide is a sin, a coward’s choice.” Talk about silencing the suicidal. It is not a sin.
Those are very faulty religions if you ask me. We are only human. We are allowed to have faults. If we had no faults we wouldn’t be human. I cannot know what my mother was thinking but as a grown woman who often reflected on finding her when she attempted suicide, I can guess what she was going through.
Our dad was a good looking musician in his leisure time and a hard working machinist who won some awards for his music. The inevitable groupie followers developed and some of those led to liaisons that were poisoning my parent’s marriage. Our family left Ontario when I was 11, we five of my parent’s children packed into the back seat of an old boat of a car that had seen better days but carried us to the west coast of Canada.
There, I am sure, my mother’s plan was to start a new life free of the women who still found out our west coast address and wrote my father love letters as well as hate mail to my mother. Sadly, dad could not find work on the island we resided on so he left home to find work on the mainland. We only saw him weekends after that and sometimes not even then. This led to the inevitable end of my parent’s marriage when my father met and fell in love with another woman.
Some time after this I overheard him, emotionally, telling my mother he still loved her, too, that he loved them both. Still, he ended their marriage to remarry and left us alone, broke and with a mother in such pain she could not see a future past it. I suspect we had come as far west as possible and the only other option was to return to Ontario where we had left so much family behind to arrive out west where we had none. Or jump in the ocean.
For me, I will always think of my mother’s suicide attempt as jumping in the ocean. Going back was too painful, too shameful, I believe, and facing a future with no job, five children staring at her for sustenance and guidance, and the love she made the move for now gone from her life. In those times there weren’t a lot of options for women. Many simply sought out a new man. Our mother told us she would never love anyone as much as she loved our father so this wasn’t a viable option for her.
On the night she attempted to take her own life with drugs a psychiatrist had prescribed to help her cope and sleep, she sent each of us five kids to stay overnight at our friend’s homes. I was playing board games and talking with the friend I chose to sleep over with and suddenly it struck me: Mom is home alone. Nobody is with Mom, she is all alone. Something compelled me to act on that thought and run all the way home where I found her totally out of it in her bed. She had been vomiting and some of the tiny pink pills were still whole in her vomit. We had no telephone so I ran to the neighbor to ask her to call an ambulance. She did.
Mom survived. How she survived I do not know. What support she had to get through that dark period in her life is beyond me. We needed her, that was all I knew at thirteen. Somehow Mom put her life back together. She found odd jobs until landing a government job as a Matron (as they were then called) in a youth detention home. This was one of her greatest points of pride in her work career, to have such a great position that paid well, had benefits and made life easier in so many ways. The institution eventually closed and Mom opened a daycare center in her own home which she worked at for approximately twenty five years.
During this time she remarried, too, but you could see she never truly loved our stepfather. It would be what many call “an arrangement” but that came to an end when she could no longer tolerate not having the love she truly wanted. Our father died just a few years after leaving us and shortly thereafter, Mom packed up the house, took what kids were left at home and moved back to Ontario with the stepfather she would eventually part ways with.
Many of her friends and relations had already retired but she worked on, caring for children in Ontario and becoming a source of advice and support for their often young parents. She affected so many lives in such positive ways that many took to calling her “Mom” themselves and still tell us kids what a great influence she was on them and their children.
Many criticize me for talking about my mother’s attempted suicide as if she or I should be ashamed of it. We absolutely should NOT be ashamed of this. Besides, I was only thirteen years old. Think about that for a moment. Compassion should be the answer and nothing else. Years later after her attempt on her life my mother said she didn’t really want to die, she just thought we would be better off without her because she couldn’t see a way out of her dilemma at the time. She said she was just going out of her mind and didn’t know what else to do to stop from hurting.
I understand this. My life has not been a road of roses and I really get how when we are so far down, we forget to look up or we just don’t have the strength to look up. We overwhelm, panic and dig ourselves deeper instead of reaching out, calling out to a safe person to help us through the challenging chapters of our lives.
If anything, in light of all the recent high profile suicides in the world, we should learn something from this. We should learn that not talking is a silent killer.
We should learn that being a safe place to talk, a non-judgmental source of support is critical. If people feel safe enough to share how they are really feeling maybe we can save some lives that otherwise might end too soon.
We can talk about suicide all we want and raise awareness all we want but, if people are feeling so alone and isolated or shamed or blamed in any way for feeling they have no other option, they are not likely to reach out at all.
Make your ears a safe place for anyone to talk about how they feel. I had a friend when I was in emotional trouble after the physical assault in 2012 who said, “Call me anytime. I don’t care if it’s 2 in the morning, you call me anytime you need to. It would be my honor to be there for you and help you through this.” I never needed to call her at 2 in the morning but call her I did. A retired hospital manager, she was a key person in my healing process and we remain close, mutually supportive friends to this day.
One safe set of ears is all it takes to make a difference. If you can’t be a safe set of ears for a person, at least don’t judge them and please be kind.
Having the resources of suicide line numbers and agencies that can help is also a good idea for those who can be a safe set of ears. I don’t believe anyone really wants to die, they just want the inner turmoil and pain to stop.
All I can say in closing is that I was so glad I found my mother in time. Later when life had leveled out for her, she told me herself, “I’m glad you found me in time, too.”
© Janni Styles
It seems hardly a year has already flown by since the 2016 Bell Let’s Talk Day and yet here we are again. Let’s hope this year’s campaign results in more people keeping the conversation going instead of shutting it down as so many are wont to do when it comes to mental health issues.
Instead of stuffing the big purple elephant under the carpet yet again, let’s talk about why people are suffering without help or experienced support. Some are too ashamed due to life conditioning around mental health matters. Some do not have the financial resources to obtain the expert help they need. Some areas are so lacking in funding for mental health services that programs are limited and wait lists can be up to two years long.
Two years is far too long. In two years a person can grow so desperate they may self harm, grow addicted to drugs or alcohol or suffer a complete psychotic “break” that costs them or those they love their very lives as was the recent situation in Nova Scotia where a man killed his family and himself. He was a soldier needing help for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and just did not get all the help he needed in time.
Let’s not make this another year full of needless tragedy.
Let’s make this the year we not only say “Let’s Talk” but let’s keep on talking and talking and talking. No matter who tries to “shush” us. Let’s keep talking for the sake of all those who are still with us and who still may have a chance to get the support and help they need to heal.
Below is a link where you can learn more about Bell’s Mental Health Day January 25, 2017 and all the wonderful work they do to keep people talking and healing. Following that is my latest PTSD poster and yes, you may share as much and as often as you please. I would be very grateful if you did.
See you next time.
Last night I could feel tears welling and kept trying to stop them. When I was finally unable to contain them, I let loose and cried for twenty minutes solid.
I cried for all who are suffering or losing loved ones. I cried for all the little ones ill or otherwise overburdened by life. I cried for all those loved ones who have crossed over before me. I cried for people who are separated from their loved ones by geographical or other distances.
I cried for all the haters that they can’t see how they are wasting their very own precious life moments. I cried because my life has been so full of stress since the middle of October. I cried because people have been and still are bullied into taking their own lives.
I cried because people won’t just live and let live. I cried for my parents because, even though it wasn’t likely so, they could fix most anything when I was little, it seemed. I cried for those who resist common sense. I cried for those who are lost with nobody even caring to find them.
I cried because I have seen so much ugliness these past few months. I cried for people who are losing their loved ones to terminal diseases or conditions. I cried because there isn’t a thing I can do about any of this.
When it was over I realized I wasn’t sad or despondent, just emotionally over charged. Then it struck me. It wasn’t crying in the true sense, it was more like tearful prayers for all I cannot control. Tearful, heartfelt prayers that all will be well.