Today, I managed to let someone push this button of mine yet again. In a discussion about the overprescription of antidepressants in our society on Facebook, I put up a links to blog post I had written that talks about Lyme patients being erroneously misdiagnosed as depressed and put on antidepressants rather than the physicians actually looking for the real problem. I also linked another post I had written about how depression is sometimes caused by issues beyond brain chemistry but that most Western doctors are ignorant of those other causes. One of the people involved in the discussion, clearly not my lifelong friend, immediately responded that chronic Lyme does not exist and there’s no scientific proof that it does. Wow. You mean like this recently released study from a researcher at Northeastern University talking about the biological mechanism through which borrelia burgdorferi survives the standard antibiotic doses recommended by the CDC? That kind of evidence?
This is the point at which I hit the block button on Facebook. I have a zero tolerance policy for people who will directly attack me or my life. If you want to believe differently than I do, that’s your choice, but don’t tell me directly and rudely that my diagnosis doesn’t exist and that the pain I’m in isn’t real. What was most stupefying to me was that this person stated that she has a mental illness that requires antidepressants. I would bet that at some point at her life she has been told that she just needs to pull herself up by her bootstraps and she’ll be fine. Mental illnesses are still not accepted by our society, and they are poorly understood. However, that doesn’t give this woman the right to turn around and tell others their diseases don’t exist either. Compassion to all who are suffering is appropriate even if you don’t agree with their diagnosis or choice of medical treatment.
The cyberbullying that our culture continues to foster in this regard is amazing. So many people believe that they are anonymous on the internet. They don’t have a problem spewing hateful words and demeaning obscenities at total strangers. Somehow the internet creates a situation that causes people to forget their basic manners. Most of the time strangers are polite to each other in public, but the internet removes that civility and results in a great deal of anger and pain.
Last week on The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All, host Chris Harrison and bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe addressed the problem of cyberbullying. Bristowe has made choices that not everyone agrees with this season, and she has been the recipient of a lot of vitriolic criticism as a result. During the show last week, Harrison read some of the worst of the tweets that Bristowe has received including death threats. As he read the tweets (with the usernames blacked out to protect the not-so-innocent), Bristowe’s eyes filled with tears. A great number of the comments on Twitter at that point were in support of The Bachelorette’s decision to address cyberbullying. However, many were not. Even some people whom I usually find to be fairly level-headed and rational disparaged the decision to discuss this topic. I read quite a few attacks on Harrison for “torturing” Bristowe by reading those comments out loud. From what I can tell of Harrison, he is a genuinely nice guy who did not pull this discussion about cyberbullying out of thin air. I’m positive he had Bristowe’s consent before he started especially based on the quiet comments he made to her as they went to commercial break. Bristowe’s genuine tear-filled response was important for America to see even if (or especially because) it makes us uncomfortable. Those users on the internet whom the cyberbullies are attacking have real feelings and real emotions. The tears and pain are real, too. The mere fact that so many people bristled against this discussion shows how desperately it is needed. If television stars and societal leaders aren’t willing to speak up against this kind of bullying behavior, change will be much slower in bringing about its end.
I’ve mentioned before that I left online dating, tired of the rude behavior and horrid comments about overweight women. What was clear to me in the world of online dating and again today on Facebook is that cyberbullying is real. Compassion is sorely lacking on the internet. Our world is full of so many wonderful reasons for living, and the internet brings about so much positive change in the world in ways that couldn’t have happened before its existence. It is long past time for that change to include an end to discriminatory words, hateful posts, and demeaning responses. We can be better than this as a society.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC