Monday, August 17, 2015

Reframing the Situation

I talk a lot about "reframing a situation." It's when you take what looks like a really shitty situation and change your perspective. Sometimes that's really the only thing within your power to change. You can't change the facts of the situation, right? But you can change how you SEE the situation.

Today I had an unfortunate online encounter. The specifics aren't important, other than to say that at one point over 125 people were calling me a cunt, a bitch, a twatwaffle. Telling me I should suck a dick or that I should die. All because I raised an objection to a turn of phrase and its possible negative implications regarding mental health. Umm, I'm a mental health advocate. That's what I do.

But the fact that I was being "picked on" isn't the point. I'm a big girl; I can handle myself. But going through this today made me understand a lot better how it must feel to be on the receiving end of bullying in middle school or high school. Prior to this, I'd thought that the solution was to just turn off social media. But it's not that simple. Yes, after today, I tightened up my personal FB page (not this one). But that's not really a viable solution, especially for kids today. Hell, it's not even really viable for me, since we run the charity online. How could I get rid of my FB, and still maintain our page? I couldn't. I certainly couldn't see a teenager foregoing all types of social media. And honestly, they shouldn't have to. The blame lies with the bullies, not the bullied.

But here's the thing. I dealt with it today. Just for a few hours. Yes, it felt like crap to have my weight and my writing criticized. To have my work with the charity, my own PTSD diagnosis and my service to my country questioned. But it was just today. It's highly unlikely that this will still be a "thing" in a couple more days. But HS kids? They sink their teeth into a victim and they don't let go. The pack mentality is even stronger in teens, as they struggle with social hierarchies and shaping their identities. Yeah, I know I'm not a size 4 anymore (thanks PTSD meds). But while it hurts that literally dozens of people called me fat, I'm not crushed by it. The fact that these twerps chose ad hominem attacks simply proves that they had no actual argument based in fact -- so they resorted to name calling. I know this, but that's NOT how teen victims are thinking about the scenario. Rather, they actually start to believe that they are fat, stupid, dumb, worthless. And this goes on relentlessly for weeks, months, years even. That's a LOT to ask a kid to endure, especially with limited support. I vented to some friends. I actually had some of them stand up for me on the site this happened on. But kids tend to keep this stuff a secret. Is it really a wonder when they turn to self-destructive behaviors or suicide?

So here's my point. I didn't write this to air my dirty laundry, or to garner sympathy. I wrote it because this actually turned into a great "reframing" experience. I started thinking about how I felt dealing with this today, and ended up thinking about how awful it must be to be a teenaged bullying victim. This experience has made me more sympathetic and more understanding -- and more committed to standing up for those who are voiceless. I'd been minimizing the situation, and putting some of the onus on the victim, not the perpetrator. I hadn't been doing justice to the enormity of the experience of those who are bullied.  I will in the future because of today.

So to all those people whose goal it was to upset me or make me feel bad about myself, I owe you a thanks. All you did was open my eyes and make me *more* understanding -- and provide fodder for this blog post.

And this is how you learn to reframe situations. :-)

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