Institutional Failures, Security Theatre and Existential Dread: A Brief Essay on My Thoughts & Experiences During the Pandemic of 2020 Thus Far
I am just going to come out and say it: when did such prestigious institutions as the Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organization become filled to the brim with completely inept and clueless leadership? From actually assisting in large scale testing and containment, and issuing requirements for biological disaster areas to follow instead of meagre suggestions, the leading organizations for global healthcare seem to have adopted a stance that pleases politicians over actually doing their jobs.
Now I know that there are actual doctors and scientists working throughout the day and night on not only COVID-19 but other pathogens such as measles, Ebola and God knows what else that could be lying in wait (such as a latent viruses or bacterium our ancient ancestors dealt with tens of thousands of years ago, but have remained dormant in the permafrost until the current climate crisis roused it from its slumber). However, those in charge of these institutes have been eerily silent over the past few months or only make common sense suggestions, often extremely late such as the WHO’s recommendation for face masks in public (which was made only yesterday), months after the suddenly and mysteriously slow CDC had already made such an announcement.
The US has to deal with Doctor Fauci contradicting himself so much that he is a caricature of any prestige he may have once had. For the love all that is holy, he not only recommended that Americans not use masks but that they also take cruises while the outbreak was tearing through those very cruise ships during the same interview earlier in 2020.
The head of the CDC is a homophobic bigot who, during the HIV/AIDS crisis forty years ago, considered that the affliction was caused by a moral failing (read: homosexuality is a “sin”) and not due to a virus despite obvious evidence that it was a goddamn virus. Robert Redfield nearly went full on Mengele with HIV/AIDS patients in the US military, forcing them into “HIV Hotels” where they were studied before being dishonourably discharged from the service and being convicted of a felony (that crime was being gay by the way, whether the patients were actually LGBTQ+ or not, as in the 1980s it was assumed that only gay people could develop AIDS).
Both Fauci and Redfield have made ridiculous promises of a vaccine against COVID-19 sooner than any actual doctors and scientists have said. The WHO's daily briefings are filled with speculation, with real but overall meaningless information sparsely interjected. The remaining time consists of the organization attempting to defend itself against a scientifically illiterate US president who hawks snake oil from the White House, then rallies a bunch of quacks to support his idiotic ideas so as to make them seem more legitimate to a desperate nation.
It is obvious that the CDC and many leading “health experts” in the US that are frequently seen on television are doing whatever they can to appease the Dear Leader rather than do their jobs, as said jobs are in jeopardy if they go against whatever the Dark Lord has to offer.
I also understand that we are dealing with a new virus and that actually intelligent individuals in these groups do not want to release anything until there have been substantial double-blind placebo controlled studies for virologic treatments and vaccines, but the silence at the top produces an air of hopelessness as tech companies attempt to fill the vacuum with idiotic masks with a moveable flap so you can eat in a restaurant while still using a mask (which defeats the purpose of the mask), personal bubbles so you can go to a movie theatre again, or full on Half-Life styled biosuits that are revealed as the future of concerts or for merely leaving your house. What a beautiful dystopia we are creating!
This is not helping.
This is a temporary situation, yet the only news we are receiving is fear-mongering that suggests my generation’s great-grandchildren may still be living in and out of quarantines over COVID-19. We overcame the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. We are not wandering the streets, looking for a cure or treatment for the Spanish Flu, nor are we huddling around a mad inventor who just rolled into town with his crazy new electric gizmo that he hails as a miracle remedy after failing as a clergyman, as people had a century ago (but as a note: nearly all modern flu strains are descended from that pandemic). We developed vaccines and, more importantly, our little evolutionary defence called the immune system did its job. Our bodies are adapting as I write this to fight COVID-19 while our ingenuity simultaneously is developing a vaccine to further that battle. That is in our evolution and the reason why we’ve overcome so many pathological disasters in our relatively short history on Earth.
While on the subject of asymptomatic people, the same people who make up the majority of those inflicted with the virus, I need to make a statement to the CDC and WHO: temperature checkpoints do not work on those aforementioned individuals. Fever is a symptom; they don’t have symptoms. I hate that I have to make mention of something so obvious to a group of scientists. Temperature checks are nothing but security theatre and allow silent carries to spread the coronavirus to others. Do not waste time trying to make people feel better when going through a biological checkpoint is only going to cause more anxiety and feelings of mistrust towards those in charge, especially the CDC and WHO. And those organizations have enough of a public image problem at this point in time between presidential rants and their inability to hold a simple press conference to reassure an entire planet suffering from daily panic attacks.
(UPDATE 9 June 2020: The consensus as of today is that asymptomatic people cannot easily spread the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which came from the WHO. Within hours, they retracted the statement, shrugged their shoulders so as to provide no further information, and continued their streak of pure incompetence.)
I have written this short article as a way to vent my frustrations and to alleviate the constant anxiety that I have been dealing with for the entire year between the coronavirus and being completely unemployed or underemployed for at least the next two years. It has been very difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning, and thoughts of moving to the woods, a dozen kilometres between myself and the next nearest human being, come to mind as a better alternative to living in a world under the draconian laws of COVID-19. This comes as a courtesy of constant misinformation, lack of leadership from the medical community and from politicians, and the endless commercials (coronammercials) that go on, and on, and on about the virus and how we are all in this together (we’re not, companies that say this just want to remind you that they still exist and want you to buy something).
Corporations always have to hijack our lives. As I write this, every major company in the world is posting a black square to their Twitter and Instagram feeds as a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter, but are actually hurting the movement by hiding relevant information for protestors and allies. Then there's all the corporate accounts suddenly turning their logos into rainbows for Pride Month, only to change them back at midnight on 1 July. Yeah, some allies you are. Any plans on adding rainbow flags to your official Russian accounts while you're at it?
Maybe it would be better to go full on Henry David Thoreau and just disappear into the trees given how horrible capitalist and consumer life is under ordinary times, never mind this. Then I would only have to worry about my friends and family debating on whether or not I have become another Unabomber.
We need a new word here in the year of our Lord 2020, and I have it right here:
This is the term that I am using to describe the ceaseless adverts about COVID-19, being together at home, or otherwise reminding you of the global pandemic when you are desperately trying to take your mind off of the global pandemic.
The other day, I put on Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel after a storm of notifications from the BBC News app reminded me that death was lurking around every corner of this new reality that I occupy. There were ten ads in the first break and bloody nine of them were about COVID-19, the "new normal," or how we're all in this together.
Fuck off. Just fuck right off.
I can't even tune in to Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network without existential dread pouring forth from my television like a Lovecraftian nightmare. The tendrils of ancient, unholy beasts are always there. Death is just outside the door.
My elderly parents have a decent sized yard with a gazebo and a pool, and they're afraid to go out in that yard for fear that the virus is lurking in the grass or in the trees, and that a little breeze will spread it like a demonic cough right into their faces. The constant news cycle didn't implant these fears by itself, these incessant coronammercials are just as bad, if not worse, than never changing the channel from FOX, CNN or MSNBC.
Big companies, business and the like, I have some advice: Shut the fuck up. If you want to make an impact in "these unprecedented times," stop wasting your money on television ads and put it towards virologic research and development, and maybe then we can get back to something remotely ordinary a little sooner.
Until then, shut your holes and realize that nobody wants your shitty car, phone, or Barbie's Quarantine Dream House until we can go about safely and get work again.
It is time that I address something that has been bothering me for quite some time that I never really figured out how to share, so I hope this post does not go off track too much. I have stated in the past that I struggle with social anxiety disorder (amongst other things) and that I have extremely poor self-esteem and a lot of body image issues. I am not sure exactly when this started, but if I were to guess, I would have to say around the time I was four and in preschool, which is just a rough estimate as I know that is when I started biting my nails out of anxiety. (I finally stopped nail-biting in 2007.)
When I was growing up, I was on a lot of asthma medication that caused my weight to fluctuate dramatically. For instance, when I began the 5th grade I was a tall and skinny kid that even towered over the girls, but after being hospitalized for an asthma attack that year, I had ballooned by 13 kg from prednisone regiments and other steroids used to treat my symptoms. Back then, controller medications were not widely available so the only way I could survive was with a nebulizer treatment in the morning, two puffs of an albuterol rescue inhaler at the nurse’s office before lunch, and another nebulizer treatment before bed. More if there was an emergency.
This put enormous stress on my body, especially on my heart (I have had a heart murmur since birth), and made me even more sickly than I normally was. As a result, I was overweight, greyish in colour and could not participate in many of the activates I was previously involved with at school: I had played the flute in concert band but my asthma forced me to stop. I played basketball but had no choice but to quit as I could not breathe well enough to be competitive. And in a school where you were either “a jock or you were not” as it was said, this made me incredibly isolated and likely contributed to my difficulty handling social situations later on.
I want to say that this got better over time, but the years of bullying and name-calling that I had been subjected to in middle school made everything much worse once I arrived at St. Nard’s for high school. Before classes began, I spent that entire summer obsessively exercising and refusing food so that I could enter a new school with a new look and, in my mind, having little to fear. By the time I was a sophomore, I had developed anorexia and was running on fumes every single day. At most I may have had a cracker and a piece of cheese during the week, and only allowed myself to have part of a meal on weekends.
I had such a hard time making friends in school that I always thought it had something to do with my weight, the way I styled my hair, the tenor pitch of my speaking voice, or more that I was nervously trying to fix all at once, and all at the cost of my health. Adding into this, the car wreck that I was involved in and the subsequent diagnosis of PTSD, my nerves were in ruins and my health was deteriorating rapidly. At the time my senior portrait was taken, I weighed only 62.5 kg while being 1.9 meters tall. I was completely emaciated: my eyes looked bigger than normal as my skull was being exposed and I had no strength left in my body so that I could no longer lift weights or even move the couch.
And this did not stop here. By university, I started eating again but in massive amounts: I would eat junk food all day long, eating ready to bake cookies nightly and had a near daily lunch of Burger King by the time I was in my final college semester. By this point, I had again ballooned up to 95 kg and was a sickly grey in the last jazz ensemble pictures that were taken of me. And adding to my own internal monologue that incessantly berated me for being too fat, or for not being good enough as a musician, an artist, or even as a person, I ended up becoming the butt of every joke by a group of people on YouTube (circa 2008).
I was new to the internet, I had dial-up until 2007-08 and I was not aware of the unmitigated evil that is the YouTube comments section. In several of my videos where I could be seen playing the piano or bass, or just making uploads that today would be classified as vlogs, I was getting trolled by one or two users who escalated their attacks in private messages that came every few minutes in the middle of the night. I was called “tits boy,” “the Rack,” and other names poking fun at my weight. I was told that my voice “sounded like Barney if he was [sic] a queer” and that a turtle with a tampon up its arse would sound better than anything I was performing. The messages included several comments that I should be struck dead.
I was a young 20-something and I was stupid. I had never heard of trolling before so I engaged with these users who destroyed what little was left of my confidence until I deleted my channel and removed all of my pictures from the internet. I have since grown thicker skin, and am happy to say that I could care less for comments directed at me, but unfortunately this has also meant that I seldom take good comments to heart and the dark thoughts of my internal monologue returned, screaming at me that I was not good enough to be a musician, or was not cut out to be an artist or a writer. And then the thoughts would turn darker and I would strongly consider acting on the vile suggestions that utter nobodies online had given me.
By 2009, I had stopped regularly performing in public and in the few instances where I did take a gig, I vehemently refused to have any pictures or videos of me taken. I gradually lost the extra weight after graduation and arrived at my current size of 80.7 kg but I still felt heavy, and I still refused to be photographed by anyone outside of my immediate family. I was also uncontrollably nervous and the thought of playing before people, something that I did without issue for years before, was impossible for me.
I was having a nervous breakdown.
I had retired as a performer because the dark thoughts in the back of my mind had won. The seven and a half years of being the victim of stalking did nothing to help either. The only personal image I would use was an old headshot taken in late 2012, which is still on several of my stores at the time I am writing this, and I am not even smiling in it.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I saw only a shell that was coming apart at every conceivable seam. I refused to share or even take any personal images because I felt that I was too ugly, too fat, or too tweaked out from constant nervousness. I hated my body. I hated myself. I felt like Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989) after he becomes The Joker.
So, over the course of the summer I decided to start over. I got an entirely new professional and casual wardrobe filled with colours after wearing nothing but drab blues and browns for years. I sought professional help to guide me with my body image issues, and realized that I have body dysmorphia and I am working every day to build up my confidence in my own skin and to realize that I am perfectly comfortable being who I am.
I want to take this moment to announce my official return to the professional music and art worlds.
I am not sure how to end this post as it is late at night and I have had to relive so much in order to create this, but all I can say is thank you and I love you all. Be well, be safe, and I’ll see you soon.
Like many people, when I hear the name Bill Maher I usually think "Huh, that's still a thing?" while letting loose a deep sigh and turning my eyes around so hard that they nearly detach from the optic nerve. This reaction mostly comes from the fact that my father profoundly adores this man and considers him a prophet of logic and ideal liberalism in the Trump era.
As I'm originally from Canada, I typically do not care about American politics (aside from the moronic trade war that the current administration started with us) and I will happily criticize American liberals for calling themselves such when former President Obama would undoubtedly have been a conservative candidate here and that the States fundamentally lack a true left wing party of any kind.
That being said, I will openly state that I am a very liberal person (Green Party member) even in a day and age where, to quote Geddy Lee, "the word 'liberal' is quickly becoming a dirty word."
I could easily sit here and write about Maher's history of Islamophobia, transphobia, sexism, rape apologia, defence of domestic violence, racism, and generalized bigotry towards religious people, but most of the world has already gone and done that work for me. The fact that the last link is from the Catholic League, a highly conservative group that I used as a source to show Maher's rhetoric towards a faith other than Islam, reveals just how much humanity can have in common with one another when it comes to the gibberish of a complete and utter dipshit who against all odds is still on the air.
What I will write about is the horrific ignorance and dangerous colloquy Maher presented about mental health after having the "joy" of listening to this idiot talk about the aforementioned issues with the equally foolish Marianne Williamson on last night's episode. I have spent over half of my life struggling with clinical depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. There have been days when simply getting out of bed and getting dressed is a challenge as I would much rather remain curled under the sheets and remembering happier days long since passed. Days whereupon I wake and am holding myself a prisoner to my darkest thoughts and the dread that leaving my comfortable bed could let loose some personal horror worse than the fears raging inside of me. My PTSD makes it impossible for me to operate a motor vehicle and I have to rely on friends or applications to get around. Even riding in a car gives me flashbacks to a wreck that I was involved in and can trigger a panic attack. Holding a traditional job is difficult if not impossible, which is why I created storefronts to sell my music and artworks through.
According to Bill Maher, however, this is just me being a whiny little millennial who is too lazy to get a "real job" and who would rather cuddle up in a world of avocado toast and unicorns. I'm not someone who is really sick; I'm just making excuses because the Big Bad Real World is harsher than I was told it would be in kindergarten. Boo-hoo! Firstly, I hate avocados (and I'm Gen X), and secondly, I do have a real job but it is just one that works for me given the disadvantages that I face from having a mental illness which is a personal triumph, so go fuck yourself.
Maher does not see the struggle of those who suffer with mental illnesses. He passes depression off as just being sad and that "sadness is a part of life... you don't always need a pill for sadness." He does not realize that feeling sad and suffering crippling depression are two separate things. He does not see that depression is a constant internal battle that you face every second of every day with your own thoughts. Those of us with clinical depression or other mental illnesses are constantly being bullied by our own brains, being told that we are not good enough, that we are not worth loving, that we are not worth being part of society. And for some of us, these thoughts can lead to suicide.
I have lost six friends and colleagues in the past three years alone to suicide.
The reckless ignorance coming from both Maher and Williamson is telling those with mental health issues that they are not truly ill. That they are just suffering a minor setback, and that antidepressants are only "numbing" them as part of a conspiracy by "Big Pharma." The reality is that antidepressants can save lives. These medications can help those suffering to defeat their dark internal dialogues and help them realize that they are in fact worthy of being loved, that their lives do matter and that there is a light beyond the darkness surrounding them and that there is a hope for a future. Antidepressants do not cure your symptoms, but they can help you manage them and take control over them.
Those who suffer from depression, especially if they have suicidal thoughts, cannot see the light through the darkness no matter how bright it may be. Depression lies to you. It lies throughout the days and nights and breaks you down until you can no longer see the good things that lie ahead. It makes you feel like you are a burden on your loved ones and that they would be happier without you. That is not true! The lies that this disease weaves are extremely difficult to cut down and medications and therapy are just some of the tools that we can use to help us break free of the deceits we are trapped in.
People who struggle with their mental well-being will not usually reach out for help due to the stigmas surrounding these diseases and fears of being rejected, fears of being feared, or just being afraid to do so period. Those around us have to be alert to our states and be willing to ask "are you okay?" even if they are damn near sure we are doing well. If you even suspect that someone is hurting or struggling, reach out and it could save their life!
We are just entering a time when mental health is starting to be recognized as not only a part of many people's lives, but that it is also real after decades of prosecutors disputing mental illnesses as mere alibis to receive lighter sentences at criminal trials skewed the public's mindset towards the matter. The attitudes expressed on Maher's show have set a dangerous precedent that could cause those who require antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication to stop taking them. Suddenly stopping medication like that can cause a variety of horrible side effects, and will only mean that the symptoms they were treating will come back worse than before. (Note that I only chose to link to the information on Lexapro as that is what I currently take.)
Maher and Williamson's lack of empathy and knowledge on a serious subject has done nothing but jeopardize the conversation on mental illness just as it was beginning, and could have life threatening costs by making such absurd and fringe beliefs mainstream.
It’s been nearly a year since I went to court to file for protection against my stalker. Since then, I have been subjected to character assassinations, death threats, and a resurgence of phone calls on my new phone number that pushed the total to a point over 1200. I stopped counting and I changed my number again.
For the majority of this year, I have been in contact with various websites that distribute personal data such as Spokeo and Been Verified to have any and all information pertaining to myself and my family removed for privacy concerns (and because they have no business sharing my private information without my consent). As I have no social media profiles, these conglomerates were the last bastion where my stalker could obtain my information and continue her assault. Since writing to the various white pages of the internet, the calls have stopped and I have not received any further unwanted contact since April.
In two years, I have written much about the torment I have been going through since late 2011 with this individual, but never detailed how we met or the abusive relationship that I was trapped in with her throughout high school. As I have been writing about my school experiences and because I have been an advocate for victims of abuse most of my life, I feel that it is time for me to share that, hoping that it will help others.
This situation began at St. Nard’s. I was not well liked in high school as I wasn’t a jock, wasn’t overly religious and wasn’t involved in any clubs. I sat alone at lunch for four years straight. I was into prog-rock, Magic: The Gathering, and high fantasy novels so it was easy to see that I was a dweeb. I didn’t even perform in school talent shows and never told anyone that I played the piano. Because I lived 45 minutes away it was hard to make friends, and the highly conservative hierarchy of the school guaranteed that I’d never fit in. I even had a teacher as a freshman who bullied me to the point where I was ready to drop out, but I’ll talk about him another time.
Before I continue, I want to state that for privacy purposes I am not going to use my ex’s name or the name of the girl who set us up. So, I looked up a list of the worst names for girls in 2019 and decided to call my ex Diesel and her BFF Chlamydia. Yes, this is what the first result of my search yielded.
While I was a social outcast, I did manage to catch the attention of Chlamydia in Spanish class. (Oh, this is going to be fun.) To say she had a crush on me was an understatement; this girl openly told her friends that we were dating even though I had never asked anyone at St. Nard’s out before, she would force her way to sit with me at assemblies and hold hands with me whenever she got close. And no, she didn’t sit with me at lunch. While flattered, or at least as much as a 14 to 15-year-old could be, this girl did not interest me at all. We had nothing in common, she was failing all of her classes, and her clingy behaviour was creeping me out, especially after she signed my freshman yearbook with “I Love You!” alongside several hearts and a massive lip gloss kiss. She didn’t even know how to pronounce my last name correctly, so the idea that she “loved” me was really off.
This changed a year later, as she was the only person in the entire school who seemed to show the slightest interest in me as a human being, I kept Chlamydia close as a friend. (This is going to be awkward so just deal with it.) Her clinginess was still an issue but I just bowed with the wind. That was a red flag that I should have paid attention to.
Anyways, as a sophomore, a rumour started going around that I was gay, which was grounds for immediate expulsion from a Catholic school. Now, I am openly bisexual today, but not when I was surrounded by holier-than-thou ultra-conservative bigots, and because of the curriculum that clearly stated that both homosexuality and bisexuality were not real and just “wrong choices,” I thought I was flawed in some unforgivable way. This made being a social misfit who already had low self-esteem a lot, lot worse. In order to hush the rumours and to stay closeted to my family and friends until I could either “cure myself” (there’s no such thing) or come out as bi on my own terms, I made the horrible decision to ask Chlamydia out on a real date.
To my surprise, she turned me down, and said that she would much rather go out with another guy whom I’ll call Gary because it’s the first male name that popped into my head. Then she told me that she had already been dating him, while telling the rest of the school that we were an item. Now, a normal person would look at this situation and back the hell out of it, getting as far away from that tangled mess as possible. So, what do you think 15-year-old me did? I asked her if she had any friends…
I’m going to let you scream at me through the computer now, maybe break a mouse or something. It will make you feel better after reading that.
Chlamydia immediately told me about her best friend Diesel, who thought I was nice and cute (she never saw a picture of me before that) and gave me her email and AIM name. For the young ones here, AIM was the AOL Instant Messenger, it’s how we used to “chat” in real time before Facebook or Skype existed. Yes, this makes me feel old. Within a couple of days, Diesel had already written to me before I had even gotten up the courage to send her a single email.
We seemed to be relatable, at least we liked some of the same music though I was the only one who knew that Rush was a band and not a lunatic political commentator. I asked if we could have lunch together the next week, and that’s when I found out that she went to a different school. I didn’t see it as a major problem, but it was definitely trickier to make a relationship out of it in the late '90s and early ‘00s. When I passingly mentioned this to Chlamydia and that I was a little disappointed that she was setting me up with someone who lived over an hour’s drive away, she swiftly told Diesel behind my back and I was soon subjected to her “crying” over the instant messenger that I was dumping her and that she wasn’t good enough for anyone.
This should have been another red flag as Diesel was already beginning to abuse me with a technique called gaslighting, and was creating a false reality in my own mind where I was hurting her feelings just by having some doubts about making a long-distance relationship work in an era before teens even had their own basic flip phones.
Diesel immediately got to work setting up a list of rules and a schedule for me to follow. I had to be online from 4pm to 10pm every weekday in case she logged in to chat, and if I wasn’t there she would get quite peeved with me. Keep in mind that she never told me when she would be online and that this was before you could message someone while offline. Also, AIM did not save messages automatically, you had to manually save them as a file if you wanted to reread an older chat log. I had to send her at least two love poems a week, I had to call her my girlfriend even though she hadn’t even told me her last name yet, and I was required to complement her looks in every chat even though I hadn’t seen a picture of her yet. She had gotten a scan of my sophomore class picture and restated that I was cute, while hiding her own image from me behind a list of strange excuses (for example; she had no disposable camera, her makeup was running, she didn’t have a computer even though she was telling me this over the internet).
My sister Hannah absolutely hated Diesel. They had never met each other, but in one chat Diesel had asked for me to say hi to my sister for her, to which Hannah gave the computer monitor the finger. Hannah could see that I was being manipulated and abused, and it infuriated her that I continued to talk with someone who was hurting me. Diesel’s ridiculous rules also made it hard for Hannah to use the computer for school or to talk with her friends, and because we had dial-up, it meant that the phone was inoperable while the computer was online. I gradually moved away from my required schedule as Diesel and I both worked after school and this freed me a little from her grasp. Hannah seized this opportunity to try and get me out of that pseudo-relationship and would desperately talk with me about asking one of her friends out, mainly those who were secretly crushing on me. She even tried to arrange a date between her best friend and I, hoping that it would break Diesel’s spell.
Nothing seemed to work though.
In one instance, Diesel became irate with me for not being online during her designated hours. She had told me the night before that she would be working the next day until 10pm and wouldn’t be home until 11. I didn’t bother going online and let Hannah have her fun with the zany websites of the era and group chatting with her friends about which 1980s rock star they thought was the hottest. I didn’t hear from Diesel for nearly a week after that, and found out from Chlamydia that she was angry with me for breaking her rules. Diesel had lied to me about working just to see if I was online during her schedule, and seeing that I wasn’t sent her over the edge. After discovering this from Chlamydia, I was sent a long and seething email from Diesel where she claimed to have been in the hospital for a suicide attempt, and threatened to cut herself or worse if I ever disobeyed her again. She claimed that I was being unfaithful and that she couldn’t trust me at all if I wasn’t willing to follow her instructions.
All of Diesel’s claims were false; this was her continuing to gaslight me and attempt to gain further control of my emotions and psyche. A different mutual friend of ours had later told me that she had never been hospitalized and never had self-harmed.
It was only by dumb luck that I was finally able to meet Diesel in person during my junior year of high school. All attempts to convene in the past had been turned down by excuses (“I got a bad haircut!”) despite that we’d be meeting alongside both of our parents and in public spaces to ensure our safety and to put our folks’ minds at ease. Just before St. Nards’ winter formal, Chlamydia and Gary broke up, and Diesel and I decided to go together as a group since Chlamydia was now going to be alone. I purchased two tickets to the event and a corsage for Diesel, and everything was put in place so we’d meet in the lobby of the Best Western where the dance was taking place. This time there were no trite alibis and things finally seemed to be going well.
I was waiting in the hotel lobby for an hour with fear in the back of my mind that I was going to be stood up before Diesel and Chlamydia arrived. We introduced ourselves to one another and this was also my first time ever seeing Diesel at all, and she was very pretty, maybe not what I had pictured, but at least this wasn’t some sort of weird joke out of a crappy Paris Hilton movie. We went to the dance, got a snack and took our seats while we got to know each other better and everything was going great. I also have to add that this was the first real “date” I had ever been on, so I was really nervous and awkward. After about seven or ten minutes, Diesel excused herself to use the restroom and never returned.
I sat alone at our table for over an hour with the DJ’s speakers right next to me, before I was told that Diesel was sick and was going to be leaving early. I helped her out of the hotel while and she left without saying a word to me. I had been given my dad’s cellphone, the only one in the house, and swiftly called home to get a ride. My parents and sister had just arrived at the house from going out to the mall, and my mother was furious when I told her what had happened. She was under the impression that Diesel was a no show, but she was angry at the entire set of circumstances anyways given how much I had paid for tickets and flowers (nearly $150 in total), and for all of this to just backfire in my face after waiting so long to try and meet Diesel face to face.
Hannah was livid but happy at the same time. She was a little envious that I was going on a date to a formal dance and that she hadn’t been asked by anyone herself. She was a freshman and I knew of a lot of guys who had crushes on her but they were too afraid to ask her out either because they were freshman themselves and thus timid by nature, or were in my class and were concerned that I’d be upset if they had asked my sister out, which I wouldn’t have been but they just made that assumption without even talking to me. As a consolation prize, Hannah gave me an early Christmas gag gift of David Lee Roth’s greatest hits (an oxymoron), which we listened to in her room with a dance off to cheer me up.
Despite Diesel’s apologies for what had happened, I later discovered that she was not sick from a bug, but that she and Chlamydia had been drinking before the dance (hence their late appearance) and were wasted by the time they had arrived. Diesel had passed out in the ladies’ room while vomiting and was taken back to Chlamydia’s house so her parents wouldn’t find out that she was drunk.
This was the last straw and I stopped following Diesel’s rules and maybe chatted with her once a week, just staying friends with her. I considered myself single again but didn’t go on the dating circuit as to give myself some much needed “me time” after that whole kerfuffle. I was feeling good and was more confident that I had been in ages. But things would soon take a very different change of course.
On 3 May, I was involved in a multi-vehicle wreck on the highway while being driven home by a livery service. Hannah was seriously injured, but due to confusion and some sketchy 911 calls, it took over 20 minutes for an emergency response. Hannah passed away from her injuries, with details that still have never come to light fifteen years later.
I lost my best friend and half of my entire person.
I was incredibly vulnerable. I had been seriously injured myself, but mentally I was in worse shape than any part of my body. I couldn’t and didn’t know how to react correctly, I bottled everything up, and I considered suicide on several occasions.
My classmates provided an outpouring of support with sympathy cards and interaction that I had never experienced before, but it also opened me up to the worst of the abuse I’d receive from Diesel.
Using this vulnerability, Diesel immediately swooped in and tried to make herself my saviour. She visited my home the day after the wreck and became involved with my parents and myself on a more personal level than ever before. She actually seemed like a real friend for the first time in our relationship. She wasn’t just an internet friend now, and she would visit our home at least twice a month and even showed up as a surprise on my birthday. After about six weeks of this, I slowly and unknowingly found myself following Diesel’s every command, even resurrecting her controlling schedule for online chats without realizing it.
At this point, Diesel became the only friend I had. Even though my oldest and best friend from kindergarten was visiting me every day, and she and I would go out for drives and just talk about shit, Diesel was still the star that I was guided by and was orbiting. Going out with some new friends had to be cut short so I could talk to Diesel. Visiting with Hannah’s friends for mutual support, each of us stricken with insurmountable grief, had to be scheduled around Diesel. Visiting my grandparents had to be worked around Diesel. She had me by every cell of my body and every part of my fractured soul.
By the summer before senior year, Diesel dictated who I could and could not speak with. She demanded that I only stay within her and Chlamydia’s circle of friends and that everyone else, including my aforementioned best friend, was excluded. I still spoke with them, but had to hide that from Diesel. It reached a point where even Diesel’s mother was involved in controlling when and where we would speak or meet. Diesel’s mom even tried to control my parents and used that to schedule dates or get togethers around her work and interests.
My mother hated Diesel’s mother. She was an illiterate, self-absorbed asshole who had no empathy for my family (or anyone). During our last get together, Diesel, her mom and Chlamydia all decided to come to my family’s house for lunch. When my mother told Diesel’s mom that she was doing poorly (as it was just four months since Hannah’s passing), her response through chewing a wad of gum was a sarcastic “Still?” which turned her as red as a can of Coca-Cola. That would be the last they ever spoke to each other.
We had a tense lunch, but Diesel, Chlamydia and I got along despite everything. Diesel’s mom had made some disgusting noodle salad that I feel obligated to bring up for its sheer nastiness, but other than that, it was just a cookout. Afterwards, things got even stranger. Diesel decided to use the family computer to instant message some of her friends despite deliberately coming to my house to visit me, and she was fixated on the computer for the rest of the afternoon before she had to leave to go to work that evening. She didn’t even hug me goodbye like we usually did. This would be the last time that I ever saw Diesel willingly.
After that lunch date, things became worse. Diesel and I were up very late online one night and I had casually written “Love you” as we were signing off. This made her very angry and she refused to speak to me for two weeks. That two word sign off also enraged her father, whom I had never met, and he decided that I was some sort of drooling villain prowling remote hamlets for maidens to have the nerve to say “love you” to his daughter.
Once my senior year began, Diesel was again demanding that I be online all evening to talk to her even when I knew she was working, and she would randomly give me the cold shoulder and refuse to respond to messages before accusing me of being mean or angry to her when I knew for a fact that I never was. Again, this is gaslighting and she was a master of using that abusive technique. I’d write a simple “Hi” to her and she would type back absurdities like “Why are you so mean all the time?” or “How could you have done that to me?” without specifying anything. I started to doubt myself and had to save all of my chats with Diesel just to go over them later and see if maybe I did have a temper or did say something out of line. I didn’t, but I felt like I was going crazy every time I spoke to this woman.
I started to question reality because what I knew and experienced was never the same thing as what Diesel was telling me I had done or said.
This reached a breaking point when Diesel decided that I was not to call her on the phone anymore. She randomly messaged me with those disheartening words: “We need to talk” and proceeded to leave the chat for over three hours before coming back, watching me nervously squirm the entire time in her mind’s eye. Her reasoning was that I was “an unstable person” for having told her “Love you” back in August. This was October and this reasoning was inane. But Diesel had so much control over me that I still obeyed her. While she didn’t want to speak with me by phone, she still insisted that I speak with her online daily, and demanded that I give her my AIM and email passwords so she knew what I was “really up to.” And I did. I didn’t even question such a brash and unreasonable violation of my own safety and privacy, I just gave them over.
Because Diesel had asked me to never call her on the phone anymore, I didn’t call her for her birthday and instead sent her a Hallmark card. That did not go over well. She tore into me that I was “over the line” in sending her that simple card (which I only had signed with my name because I knew “love” was about as bad as a certain c-word with her). A few days after she called me every name and slur in the book over AIM, she apologized saying that it was just the stress of senior year getting to her, and that I was “lucky she still loved me.” It’s okay if she said it but if I said it, oh boy. And that right there was a massive red flag amongst all the smaller ones that I still had failed to see.
Everything came to an end on Christmas Day. My parents were not doing well, I wasn’t doing well and everything in our lives and home was off. After our dinner, with a special plate set at Hannah’s seat with an offering of yams, her favourite vegetable, my mom asked if I was going to call Diesel and wish her a Happy Christmas. I was hesitant as she had told me to not call her on the phone but it was, after all, Christmas. With a lot of anxiety, I dialed her number and was confronted by her father almost immediately. I’ve mentioned this before, but after I asked for Diesel, he responded with something along the lines of “Don’t you ever call here again you goddamn k*** or it’ll be the last fucking thing you ever do! That’s all over now, Chanukah Boy!” in a thick, nearly unintelligible Boston accent, and with an obvious hint of drunkenness.
I never again spoke to Diesel and I never saw her after that (on purpose). I was devastated at first, but once I began talking with my real friends, I slowly started to understand what a blessing I had been given. I started to see through the fog and realized just how manipulated I had been, and how clouded my judgments had become due to her constant abuse. I had even slumped in my grades and in my musical practise during that relationship because I always had to make time for her which meant less time for studying and less effort in my essays. I comprehended that I had more friends than I had previously thought, as she had controlled who I could and could not see or speak to. After making arrangements with my companions and colleagues, I soon deleted my email and AIM name and created a new one as Diesel had my passwords and I didn’t want her to know how to contact me ever again.
Of course, she would later go on to stalk me with her mother’s assistance, but I’ve already discussed that and have had police intervention to make sure that she stays as far away from my family and I as possible.
Given the weight of this very long story, I want to again provide my readers with information on how to leave and heal from an abusive relationship, alongside suicide prevention hot-lines from around the world. Stay strong, and know that you deserve to be treated right and with respect and dignity, and anyone who fails to do so is not deserving of you!
Domestic Abuse Hotlines
United States: 1-800-799-7233
United Kingdom: 0808 2000 247
Suicide Prevention Lifelines
Canada: 1-866-277-3553, (514-723-4000 in Montreal)
United States: 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom: 0845 7909 090
International Suicide Hotline List