staying away from a toxic forum
January 10, 2012 10:15 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop myself from crawling back to this toxic forum where I keep getting verbally abused?

There is another relationship advice forum I often frequent and have for a few years. But the atmosphere there is entirely different. While Askmefi is generally civil and rational, this forum can be toxic because the moderation is so poor. There a number of wonderful, insightful posters, but also a handful of vicious bullies who have been around for a long time.

In my early twenties (I'm 28 now) I started posting about my relationships on this board. A few female posters noticed I had some dysfunctional patterns in relationships: being a doormat, acting impulsively, letting relationships drag out that were unhealthy. I also cheated on one boyfriend years ago when I was in a bad place, and they never let me live it down even though I was very remorseful and I never cheated on anyone again. These posters started stalking my threads and attacking me. I have to stress that their attacks went way beyond criticizing my behavior in relationships, which WAS unhealthy -- to putting down my character and picking on all of my insecurities. Unfortunately I was very revealing about my vulnerabilities, so that gave them plenty of ammunition.

They put down everything about me -- my personality (one called me an ugly person inside and out and I have been called crazy more times than I can count), my looks despite knowing I'd been suffering with body dysmorphia for years, my intelligence.

One of the women claims she acted in similar ways to me in her twenties and now is entirely "reformed," and she seems to be on some personal crusade to put people like me down...as if to prove to herself that she's no longer like us.

For some masochistic reason I keep coming back. I think it's because the relationship with these bullies entirely mirrors a traumatic three year bullying episode that happened when I was 10-13 that I've never entirely gotten over. The bullies in that case were also all girls. It's almost as if I'm trying to "fix" what happened then.

What gets to me most about the bullying is that nobody stops it, which is why it reminds me so much of that episode when I was a kid. The problem is the posters are so entrenched in the forum that nobody wants to stand up to them, including the moderators. They are also highly manipulative, will butter up other posters and then target a couple of members with low self esteem under the guise of "tough love." They are intelligent enough to sound rational and confident and defend themselves well, so it takes new members awhile to pick up on their antics. Like cops they all defend each other, but newer posters often don't pick up on the hidden alliances so they think they all independently agree with each other which often swings the tide of opinion in their favor if that makes any sense.

The more I defend myself or point out their behavior, the worse it gets.

I think I keep coming back because I want other people to acknowledge their behavior. Somehow without that acknowledgment, it feels like my reality is being invalidated. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my best friend refused to defend me or even acknowledge that it was happening, or how a sadistic teacher got me in trouble when the bullies were picking on me in class and pretended I was provoking them. I still have nightmares about this stuff.

I also wonder why it is that I attract bullies. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me, and maybe that's part of why I keep going back...to figure that out.

Any advice on how to pull myself away from this forum for good or insight on why I keep attracting people like this in my life and how to brush them off in the future when they attack me?
posted by timsneezed to Human Relations (49 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
For some masochistic reason I keep coming back. I think it's because the relationship with these bullies entirely mirrors a traumatic three year bullying episode that happened when I was 10-13 that I've never entirely gotten over. The bullies in that case were also all girls. It's almost as if I'm trying to "fix" what happened then.

This is the only part of your post that you should be paying attention to.

Drop this unhealthy part of your life. Stop going back. Seek therapy, instead of more abuse.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Change your password to gibberish. If that's not enough, tell the forum admins to lock your account. Add a site-blocker to your browser that requires extreme efforts to turn it off. Walk away.
posted by holgate at 10:22 AM on January 10, 2012 [26 favorites]


I also wonder why it is that I attract bullies. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me, and maybe that's part of why I keep going back...to figure that out.

The reason that you are attracting bullies is that you keep offering yourself to them as a target. If you stayed away from the forum, you wouldn't be a target, and they'd go looking for someone else. But they know that you're not going to do anything, you'll keep turning up, so they're on the lookout for you.

If, instead, you said "well, fuck this" and just never went to the forum again, not only would you never see them again, you'd also be taking away one of their targets, so they'd also lose something too.

I was bullied too, and I was just as pissed as you that none of the other people around me seemed to want to help me. That's something I'm still strugging with. But one thing that did finally help me was giving up the secret fantasy that someday I'd magically say the right thing that would make everyone else stand up and cheer for me and make them feel awful and apologize; deep deep down, that's what I was hoping would happen, and I have a hunch that deep deep down you're kind of hoping for that to happen too. But it's never going to happen. You will never ever have that whole come-to-Jesus moment where they apologize.

But the reason that moment won't happen isn't because you're not saying or doing anything wrong -- the reason it won't happen is becuase they are EMOTIONALLY RETARDED, and you're trying to talk to them on a normal level. THEY'RE the ones with the problem. They just plain aren't equipped to give you the kind of response you're hoping they'll give you. They will never stop treating you this way -- the only thing you can do is decide you don't deserve it, and that you will remove yourself from people who don't treat you the way you deserve.

It sucks, I know. But you can stop it. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:24 AM on January 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


1. Quietly delete your account at that forum. Don't go out in flames. Say nothing. Just delete your account. Do it right now.

2. Install Leechblock or something similar and use it on its most powerful setting.

3. Find a therapist or other healthy resource to learn ways to get bullies out of your life.

It will be hard at first not to go back to the forum, "just to see," but let Leechblock do its job. After awhile, the urge and pain will fade dramatically and you can view the episode from a healthy, helpful distance.
posted by ceiba at 10:27 AM on January 10, 2012 [27 favorites]


I think I keep coming back because I want other people to acknowledge their behavior. Somehow without that acknowledgment, it feels like my reality is being invalidated.

Yes. It does feel like that.

But at the same time, demanding acknowledgement from these toxic people means that you are giving them the power to control your reality. Even if you're not demanding it out loud, you're still putting yourself on the hook. You're saying to yourself, "I'll know I'm not crazy when I can get this awful person -- who doesn't have my best interests at heart -- to admit that she was wrong." She's abusing you because she wants to, and right now you have an agreement that she will stop abusing you as soon as she admits that she was wrong. Why would she ever admit that she's wrong?

You want closure. Closure doesn't happen very often, and it's kind of a shame that it's such a feature of narrative because it sets false expectations for real life. Winning and closure are two different things. How you win is by not playing their game; by telling yourself, "this awful person is probably going to keep being awful for years. But NOT TO ME, because I am OUTTA HERE."
posted by gauche at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Blocklist the forum in your hosts file.
If you can't GO to the website, then you simply can't go to the website! :-)

Google "How to blocklist a file on hosts file", or if want direct help, post here in the thread or send a mefi message.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 10:29 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What gets to me most about the bullying is that nobody stops it

Thank goodness that this time around you ended up in a situation where someone does have the power to stop it: you. You are an adult now, you are not that victimized teenager anymore.

I do this meditative exercise where I imagine myself making contact with past versions of myself and offer them comfort and love from the future. In abandoning this forum you will be able to turn back and address your past self with the assurance of one who has made the future into a safe place for them to one day occupy.

Remove it from your bookmarks, cancel your notifications, begin nibbling away at whatever connections tie you to the site. Begin thinking of that period of your life in the past tense. Check in less and less often. No dramatic goodbyes, no having the last word. Time is money, and there's no sense in throwing good money after bad. Invest in life that allows you to do and be your best.
posted by hermitosis at 10:29 AM on January 10, 2012 [22 favorites]


>I think I keep coming back because I want other people to acknowledge their behavior. Somehow without that acknowledgment, it feels like my reality is being invalidated. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my best friend refused to defend me or even acknowledge that it was happening, or how a sadistic teacher got me in trouble when the bullies were picking on me in class and pretended I was provoking them. I still have nightmares about this stuff.


This level of personal psycho-analysis is not healthy. There is a forum where people are mean to you. You keep going back. This happens to lots of people. They do things that are bad for them. I'm not the type of person to discount mental health. I take psychiatric medication myself. My point is that you are going into these deep twisted arguments such as 'invalidation of reality stemming from childhood problems.' That sounds like some sort of post-modern Freudian analysis that you need to drop. Just keep talking to your friends off the forum and stop going there. I know what I have said is unfair. It would have been perhaps like someone telling me to just stop being sad. Ok, I get that. But you either need to exert control over your life or get help if you can't.
posted by jjmoney at 10:32 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Life is not like a movie, you are never going to get these folks to apologize for, or accept responsibility for saying things that are hurtful. Especially... especially over the internet where they have zero real world contact with you. There is never going to be a triumphal moment where you win and they lose.

do what holgate suggests regarding changing your password, and blocking the site. But, more importantly, start taking steps to move beyond the dynamics you have identified. The standard AskMe advice™ is to seek therapy of some sort, and that might be valid, but do something that moves you away from victimhood, towards building for the future and being int he moment. Start building new patterns, otherwise the old patterns will dominate you and while you may eventually break free of the forum you may well find other, similar spaces to be in.
posted by edgeways at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What everyone else said: delete your account without another word and block the forum using a browser plug-in. Here's a thought exercise:

You are being physically abused by a bully. They are, literally, pushing you around. You try to yell at them and nothing works. You turn around to leave and walk away and all the while you get yelled at on the way out, making you feel defeated and terrible.

OR

You vanish. The bully assumes you would have been there to push but you weren't and they fall flat on their face. They can call you a quitter after you're gone, but it doesn't matter: you're not there anymore and their behavior now reflects on no one but them.
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Disable or delete your account with the forum, and block the site from your browser. And get a therapist. You deserve to be treated with respect--and that includes treating yourself with respect by learning how to stop this dysfunctional behavior.

The forum participants who are bullying you will never come around to your point of view, no matter how hard you try to explain yourself. I don't want to tell you definitively why you seem to "attract" bullies, but I will say that I do not attract bullies and, when I have experienced bullying-type behaviors directed at me, my first instinct has been to ask, "How can I get this person out of my life as quickly as possible?" rather than, "How can I make her see that her behavior is wrong?"

You're talking about experiencing bullying in a context you can easily leave and you're choosing to return. I understand the urge to defend yourself and make them understand. But still. They're bullies, not people who misunderstand you: they are people who want to make you feel bad in order to make themselves feel good/powerful/superior/whatever. When I encounter this sort of person, I think I have a little sensor in my brain that tells me: "She's never going to get it, she's doing this on purpose: get away!" I think you're missing that sensor. So, I'd suggest you find a therapist you click with and work on figuring out how to build that sensor.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


There was a Web forum like that, frequented by my emotionally abusive ex-girlfriend, where I kept coming back to marvel at how she could be such a mean person in real life but such a beloved forum treasure on the Internet.

In the end I had to accept that the whole reason people act cruel in the first place is related to the reason you will never get them to recognize that they ever were.

I dealt with my addiction to this forum by avoiding the relationship sections and sticking to tech questions.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:36 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great responses so far but I want to add one more question to the mix. How do I get the nightmares to stop?

I have been in therapy, and I've talked about the childhood bullying at length but they still persist even when I've stayed away from the forum. I feel like if they stopped a lot of my anxiety would dissipate.
posted by timsneezed at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2012


Think about how asserting your independence in a forum like that requires being beaten up, placating and ultimately depending on others. Think about how much you need those people in order to feel okay about yourself.

I have some very strong opinions about people who use these tactics to exclude people out of groups. Especially "reformed" individuals, like the one you mentioned, of any kind who come down hard on those who are having trouble. It is by nature exclusionary, extremely subtle and inappropriate. And anybody who is clamoring at their own success is doing so in order to feel better about themselves.

I just want to point out something, since what you are doing is essentially online community inventory-taking. Other people "taking your inventory," to borrow the phrase, is not the same thing as you taking your own. You understand what I'm saying? It's not the same ballpark. It's not the same planet. This is why when you have people yelling at you, "You are doing this and this wrong!!" -- if you have previously opened up to people who end up speaking to you this way, then their damnations take on a heavier meaning.
posted by phaedon at 10:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you stay up on the computer until it's time to go to sleep? If so, stop that. Bedtime is not screentime. Get more exercise, wear yourself out, relax in the evenings in a way that doesn't involve sitting stationary and staring into a bright light while your mind races.
posted by hermitosis at 10:41 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


How do I get the nightmares to stop?

There's a reason that even as adults, we still have nightmares about overdue papers and showing up in school in our underpants. The longer you stay away, the better it will get, but it's not an immediate thing.
posted by griphus at 10:41 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Have you tried setting goals in therapy along the lines of, "I want to recognize cues that someone is starting to bully me, and I want to take steps to get out of the situation before it turns into full-on bullying" or "I want to develop the skills I need to make better choices about what communities I participate in"?

I think sometimes therapy can linger on rehashing bad things, and maybe you feel like you're making progress because you feel a sense of catharsis, but without a goal you're working toward, and specific skills you're trying to learn, the process can kind of stall out.

Also, mindfulness meditation could help you. Learning mindfulness can be a great way to address racing thoughts or feelings of being overwhelmed by outside factors.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:48 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The nightmares will stop when you stop masochistically inviting yet more bullying from people today. If you follow the advice above and get away from toxic environment, and reach out to the healthy and nurturing and supportive environments where you others will show you the respect you deserve, then your brain will begin to catch up.

It may take a long time. It might take more therapy. But you deserve to live without bullying from outside, or from within your own head.
posted by ldthomps at 10:48 AM on January 10, 2012


You are a wonderful writer, maybe fill the time you used to spend on the forum (and now spend dwelling on the dynamics on the forum and write instead. I am sorry you have had such a horrible time in a place you had felt safe.
posted by saucysault at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand your dilemma. Even though you are treated abusively in the forum, you still consider it a familiar place and there is some comfort to be found in familiarity, and I'm sure despite the bullies you have had meaningful and interesting interactions there.

Personal story: a friend of mine was a long-time participant in a Usenet news group on an academic topic. One of its participants was a distinguished professor at a major university in Arizona who behaved in much the same way as your bullies did; mocking people, belittling them, systematically alienating people and ridiculing their credentials and questioning their intelligence, teaming up with his lackeys and sycophants to target certain members with abuse ... it was the craziest thing. (And, bizarrely, it was all under his real name.) My friend was one of the targets, but was nonetheless reluctant to leave because the forum was familiar, it was "home." I had heard stories about the bullying on the forum, and finally went and checked it out myself. It was exactly as my friend had described.

I think you need to find something that is a substitute for what you found there. My friend eventually just chose his dignity over the continued mockery and abuse of that Usenet group. But it was hard. Having a place you can go instead of that forum should make the decision easier.
posted by jayder at 10:53 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been in therapy, and I've talked about the childhood bullying at length but they still persist even when I've stayed away from the forum. I feel like if they stopped a lot of my anxiety would dissipate.

Bullying may result in PTSD. Ask your therapist if she has expertise in its diagnosis and treatment. Some treatments for PTSD are more effective than others.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:01 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


How do I get the nightmares to stop?

I came in to stay what Wordwoman just said. I had good luck with EMDR and it took no time at all- just a few sessions, compared to talk therapy. YMMV of course, but check it out.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any advice on how to pull myself away from this forum for good...?

Announce on the forum that you won't be posting anymore. Don't gratify the bullies by going out in flames; just state briefly that you're moving on. Since you'd look silly if you posted anything more after that, this will help you hold yourself accountable for not crawling back.
posted by Mila at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2012


I have been in therapy, and I've talked about the childhood bullying at length but they still persist even when I've stayed away from the forum.

I can't tell you how long that transition period from "nightmares" to "no nightmares" will be. But I can tell you that that transition period will not begin until you get away from these people.

And no, getting them to stop will not make the dreams go away. You're still processing what they've already done to you. You've already got a backlog of bad juju that they've given you that your brain needs to process - that's what those nightmares are. The sooner you stop adding to that backlog (by stopping dealing with them), the sooner you'll be finished.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2012


The nightmares might take a long time to stop. Until they do, try to focus on the feeling of relief that you get when you wake up and realize the terrible thing you're dreaming about isn't actually happening. If you think about it in these terms, you can actually flip your whole perception about dreams on its head: very good dreams are bad, because you might feel disappointed when you wake up. But bad dreams are good, because the reality you wake into is so much better than the dream.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:35 AM on January 10, 2012


Do you feel empowered in other parts of your life? Have you thought of taking a self defense course so you can feel more fearless and able to stand up to these bullies? Even if these bullies existed a decade or more ago, being able to defend yourself now, physically, would help with your feelings of being bullied.

Another empowering thing to do would be to go ahead and disconnect from the forum right now. Block it in however many ways you can. Then come back here and tell us so we can cheer and celebrate with you. Don't underestimate the feel goodness of a bunch of Mefites rooting for you.
posted by Vaike at 11:35 AM on January 10, 2012


I also wonder why it is that I attract bullies.

Hm:

being a doormat, acting impulsively, letting relationships drag out that were unhealthy.

These personality traits are the ones that bullies are drawn to, because it means you'll be a target.

The other thing is that instead of walking away from a place where people are bullying you, you are staying there.

you know how when adults tell you as a child to "ignore bullies and they'll stop," that's completely useless advice because you're in school and you can't get away from them? Well, here, it applies: delete the account and stop participating in the forum. You're an adult, and you can apply adult solutions: you don't have to be there, so you can leave and not deal with them.

That's the first step. The next step is to ensure that the next online or real life social environment you find yourself in, you won't attract bullies again.
posted by deanc at 11:50 AM on January 10, 2012


Sadly, it is often true that abused people go back to their abusers. The stories they tell themselves is that it's all in the hope that it can be different, that they'll apologize and explain and all that.

It doesn't work, and in your heart of hearts, you know it doesn't work. You are going to be abused when you go to an abuser. Period. You know this to be true.

Can you live without the abuse? Can you live without needing validation from bullies?

You may find that you'll experience scary-ness (including nightmares) and/or emptiness as you abstain from the bullying. Can you start to fill your life with activities that are meaningful to you? Rather than trying to get others to change, focus on making your own change. To the extent that you can do that, the pull of the abuse will ultimately lessen.
posted by jasper411 at 11:55 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


...just state briefly that you're moving on. Since you'd look silly if you posted anything more after that, this will help you hold yourself accountable for not crawling back.

I should add that this is my advice only if the technology-based solutions won't keep you away from the forum. ("Hey, y'all! It's timsneezed with a new username!") If you can leave without another word and block yourself for good, that's the least bully-validating way to go.
posted by Mila at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2012


The best thing to do (and probably the key to get those nightmares out of yo' head) is to finally, absolutely and completely, recognize that it's not you.

The bullies don't hate you because you're you. They hate you because they love to hate. Hate you, hate themselves, hate the world... the list goes on. Most of the time bullies are just projecting onto you what they don't like about themselves. I'm sure everyone has experienced a time when someone's personality trait rubs them in entirely the wrong way, only to realize later that "ohemgee, I am crazy loud/unnervingly chipper/flaky/ etc. too."

What helped me a lot was recognizing that it wasn't me. And it's not you either.

And to perfectly illustrate my point >>>

Forgive yourself. Recognize it's not you. Move on. Don't look back.
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 12:31 PM on January 10, 2012


Except that one bit of it is her, in that she keeps going back and trying to change them.

OP, you can't change them. What you can change is yourself. Stop going there. Use tools like Leechblock to help you stick to your decision.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2012


I also wonder why it is that I attract bullies.

But what you're talking about isn't attracting bullies. It's actively seeking bullies out.

Remember Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged? Whose mission was to go throughout the universe and insult each creature that had ever lived since the dawn of time, individually, personally, and alphabetically?

I had a friend who was like that, only about politics and conspiracy theories. He used to declaim, "The real battles are being fought in the realm of ideas!" and felt that VOIP arguing for six to seven hours a night was the absolute most effective form of activism he could possibly engage in. The Kingdom of I Was Right would come, he felt, when he had argued with all the people from all the nations until they all thought exactly as he did about everything. He felt that my preferred form of direct action (Amnesty letters and such) was far too piecemeal, because I could only hope to make a small contribution to getting one person out of jail at a time, whereas, when he was done, nobody would ever even want to falsely imprison another person again, and so there would be no more prisoners of conscience to write about.

Some of what he said, he believed; the rest of it was trolling [1] but I think his real point was to get me to finally admit that he was right and I was wrong, whereupon, having acknowledged that I wasn't in fact too good for him, I would inevitably give in and sleep with him. [2]

I get the sense that you, timsneezed, have a nobler mission. I think you did internalize the message that "bullies are cowards, if you don't fight back, you're part of the problem" and that you are, in some ways, trying to be the stand-up person who wasn't there for you when you were a kid.

I just don't think it works. In fact, the single thing that keeps people in abusive relationships is the belief that if they can explain why the abuse is bad, they will get the abuser to stop. You should definitely fight bullies, but marching into Bullytown with a target on your chest and a KICK ME sign on your back, is not making you any less of a victim. Instead, it's making you a victim with a megaphone. Wrestling with pigs. Imagine Bullytown has a hog waller and you are marching straight for it every time. Don't go there.

If you seriously want to stop bullying, there's a page of resources here for you to find a way to get started.







[1] Or so he said - if you never commit to any of the beliefs you declaim, you can never be wrong

[2] My religion was particularly at fault in this, since it showed that I had a "hierarchical view of the universe" - if I could think that God is better than me, it follows that I could think that I was better than my friend, so if I just stopped believing in God ("HOW CAN YOU WILFULLY SUBMIT TO A SYSTEM OF POWER, CONTROL AND DOMINATION? ANSWER ME! LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU!") then my hierarchical worldview would collapse, resulting in the inexorable fall of my drawers.
posted by tel3path at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm going to 2nd the idea to change your password to some sort of gibberish. Rattle your fingers across the keys and hit enter.
vhdjffdgvdsafvcdshakjvhjbdfvc

Do it. When you return to the forum, you won't be able to get in.


I'm also going to 2nd the comment that "it's not you" is not accurate. It IS you that keeps going back even though you know what the result will be. The fact that it IS you who chooses to return is not a bad thing though, since you can change.

Change your password. Lock yourself out.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Like many others above, I'd advocate No Contact. This is a lot like an abusive relationship, only it's with plural partners. As is the case with abusive relationships, most people outside of that relationship don't get to witness the abuse, or don't know how to justly appreciate what is going on. You yourself stay on in the hope that you will finally hit upon the right words to explain where you are coming from - and they will find themselves reformed and everybody will live happily ever after. Or because if you cannot sort this out, then what kind of a person are you? etc. Don't explain any more - you might as well try to explain quantum theory to your front door. In fact, why not use this to prop up your No Contact decision - go back to explaining when your front door demonstrates an understanding of particle physics.

2. You probably don't attract bullies. Toxic people try their hand with a lot of people. As someone above mentioned, they give up on those who don't react to the bully's satisfaction during early approaches, and then get stuck on whoever is left. Also, they are quite careful to cultivate a set of willing or unwitting Mitläufer, who contribute to the poisonous dynamics (and it's a bit luck of the draw if you end up bullied or as an involuntary Mitläufer). The only way of avoiding bullying is to not rumminate on how you attract bullies (you don't, it's just that they end up sticking it out with you because you stay around for the bullying), but remove yourself from the presence of toxic people or toxic communities.

3. Things that helped with nightmares and insomnia, or otherwise stress and internal agitation/anxiety: reading something which I find beautiful and which takes me out of me, as it were. Watching something which, again, takes me out of myself. For example, right now I am watching the "Frozen planet" series, and I'm continuously gob-smacked. Have quite fogotten to worry about the dozens of little things which have kept me agitated before I started watching. When I go to sleep, hazy images of exquisite beauty float in front of my inner eye, and I've been sleeping like a baby these last couple of nights. Other things: turn off the computer half an hour - an hour before going to sleep, and start a soothing before-bed routine. Make the lighting more cozy and nest-like, play some gentle music, tidy up one of the spaces in your house so that at least one corner feels welcoming and taken care-of, drink milk, or milk and honey, or chamomille tea, or a glass of wine, or whatever else suggests peace and comfort and home-coming and nesting. If you are responsive to such things, burn some relaxing aromatherapy oils - lavender, for instance, take a bath - maybe a scented bath. Take a box, write out all your thoughts re. the bullying as they come to you, put them in the box, and put the box in the opposite part of the room or house from your "tidy corner". The two are separate - one is your haven, the other one is shit that happened to you and which you are dealing with (in part by keeping it away from what is important). Whenever it is necessary, you will go back to the box to deal with stuff (maybe even remove some of the stuff you put in as no longer of actuality), but it stays away from the core of your life. Write out soothing/encouraging things for yourself on a beautiful sheet of paper, and put it next to your bed. If you have a nightmare, you have it, no big deal, turn your nightstand lamp on and read the good thoughts for timesneezed. If you still cannot go back to sleep, go to the bathroom, write "Had bullying nightmare" on a sheet of paper, go put it into the box, go drink some water, and then, if you're still not sleepy, go to your tidy corner, and snooze there for a while. Or, basically, think of what you find most soothing and comforting (tastes, smells, music, maybe special clothing, anything), and make sure to have an internal list corresponding to your own inclinations so that you can fall back on it wheneve you feel upset, anxious, dispirited, sad etc.

Good luck.
posted by miorita at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Go watch 'It gets better', for gay kids.

And think about it. What happens is, they go away, and they get better ('you can't run away from your problems' is bullshit, when the problems are external).
They go to places where they can be accepted, and they can have awesome lives.
The people who bullied them, generally sit and stay in their cesspools. The best revenge is a fantastic life.

I know, I stuck around in a primary school where I was being horribly bullied, because I'd read the books, watched the movies, this is how it's supposed to go, right? Actually, I could have changed schools, and I'm 95% certain I wouldn't have been bullied anymore.
Change the mental script. It's not kids who will all stand on desks and clap for you when you finally say the right things. It's all the worst stereotypes of a tiny town of community of backward hill-billies, manipulative religious groups, Nazis, Hannibal Lecter (ok, I'm going overboard here).
You succeed by walking away. Getting out of that town, that life, that board, and making something of yourself.

I'd suggest you need to delete the account, and set up website blocking that won't allow you to visit the forum, say in your localhosts file, if you have windows (http://www.delete-computer-history.com/how-to-block-a-website.html).


For the dreams, when you have a nightmare, and wakeup - take a moment to lie there, and either rewrite the dream, or just part of it, as if you are the writer, re-writing the ending.
Things like, suddenly have all the bullies get really, really small until you can't see them anymore, while you get really large, until you walk off into the sunrise on a beautiful beach, which the sound of happy people close by. There's a good mefi comment on nightmares here somewhere, about this idea.


Finally, it can just be forum addiction. I'm actually getting that way with mefi, as nice as people can be. When I'm not sure what I should be doing at work, or have problems in life that aren't immediately solvable, I come on here, because, there are problems being solved here!
It's starting to become a negative form of escapism though, and I've been temporarily blocking myself.
I think I need to make the step of actually contacting a mod and suspending my account for awhile. If it's what I need to do, it's what I need to do.
posted by Elysum at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, after the whole palaver above, I read what the two posters above me said, and now I wish to clarify a bit:

I don't think anyone gives out an "hey, I'm easy to bully" scent. Also, few people are probably entirely transparent during the first few interactions as easily bullied. But there probably are a few things which experienced bullies can sniff out relatively quickly (and not necessarily only from directly interacting with you - in places like groups, forums, online or off-line communities, workplaces etc. they can learn A LOT from observing other people interact with each other). Off the top of my head, in no particular order I am thinking:

1. Being overy diffident.
2. Being a people pleaser.
3. Being overly and unhealthily concerned with other people's opinion (as in not just considerate and respectful, but really afraid of what others might think and taking this as a crucial criterium for making decisions, for instance).
4. An overwhelming need to explain yourself and to be understood (I think this is your one. It's also mine, and in my life it's done tons of damage. Not with bullies, but otherwise. Just think how much time can be wasted like this!).
5. Constantly deferring to others.
6. Constantly qualifying what you say in such a way that you actually continuously belittle yourself, your opinions, your qualifications.
7. Having some characteristic, preoccupation, ideas etc. which are exotic or unpopular in your group, and which serve to single you out. This one, I suspect, is the most obvious one.
8. Not being able to advocate for yourself. This connects to the next one (seemingly paradoxically, but not really)
9. Tolerating bad behaviour, or staying on after you have addressed bad behaviour and the situation wasn't resolved.
10. Showing your vulnerabilities in a reckless fashion. A lot of people do this , and I think it is a strategy that has, at times worked well for a lot of us, say, during early childhood. This is a bit akin to the submission rituals we see in dogs. For a bully, though, this is like a year full of Christmases. Don't do it with anyone before you know them really well and have good reason to trust them.
11. Not reading the lay of the land well. For instance, in a work situation where creating what is known as a hostile environment will not be tolerated, you speaking up for yourself will be well received; however, if for whatever reason your bully has the backing of the powers-to-be, or even only of the collective, you are shot. Your approach to the situation needs to be informed by what is going on around you and with the other people involved (whether actively or passively). If you show yourself to be oblivious to the general mood, you are more likely to become and remain a victim.

etc., there probably are other things. But, just to show once more that you don't uniquely ATTRACT bullies from the get-go, I'll tell you that people can be judged as being easily bullied for displaying some of the above, the bully tried to kick-start the action only to find themselves disappointed (for instance, in my country one of the rules of etiquette says that in very polite settings you always defer to others upon first meeting them - in a way, you measure inceasing friendship and intimacy by how much more comfortable you are with disagreeing, or expressing contrary views/opinions etc. I moved elsewhere for a while, and in the circles I moved in this was not the norm, so I think I came across as quite the push-over. Also, we are tought to be very self-deprecating, so I frequently came across as lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem, which is vey much not the case. It was actually quite comical to see attempts at bullying fall flat on their face). Anyway, the upshot of this is that whilst I have been the "victim" of quite a few attempts at bullying, I have never in my life been bullied (I've my own menu of toxic behaviours I keep getting myself into). So, from the bullies perspective, they cannot accurately differentiate between a likely target and a misfire. They cast their net wide, and usually something gets stuck. And that, in my view, is the only sure-fire way, as an adult, to remain a victim of bullying - by not leaving. Basically - so what if you are insecure, have vulenrabilities which you may have unwisely disclosed, so what if you are diffident, if your opinions are wavering etc. etc. etc., the only way you will get bullied is by staying put.
posted by miorita at 1:58 PM on January 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


If you don't feel strong enough to delete your account, I'm sure any of us would be willing to do it for you. Block the site at your hosts file. It's ok to feel grief about losing the site and what the good parts meant to you. Allow yourself the grief of it being dead to you.

You don't deserve this. And you've taken the first step of freeing yourself. The hard part is severing the ties that bind, and then never letting yourself tie them again.

I'm happy to help you delete your account, if you just can't make yourself do it. I don't mind at all.
posted by dejah420 at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2012


Another volunteer to delete your account for you. I had a friend do something somewhat similar for me only a few weeks ago. We've all been there.
posted by tel3path at 2:57 PM on January 10, 2012


Any advice on how to pull myself away from this forum for good

Ask a technically-savvy person to put entries in your hosts file (i won't provide details because I don't want you working around the block) that prevent you from hitting the web site.
posted by davejay at 3:24 PM on January 10, 2012


Oh, and stop defending yourself. Bullies can never be convinced that they're wrong, and in fact they enjoy being wrong but pretending they're right (see Trolling), so being boring and not engaging is a better alternative.
posted by davejay at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, great responses guys! Askmefi really came through on this.

The good news is I've already been banned from the site after trying to defend myself the last time. Ironically, the bullies remain. But this only prevents me from posting, not from viewing the site. And it's also easy to create another username. I will download Leechblock as suggested. I'm sort of in a rush tonight because I have company but I'll install the program ASAP.

Miorita, you zeroed in on some of the traits that probably make me an easy target. These are behaviors I'd like to fix:

1. Being overly and unhealthily concerned with other people's opinion (as in not just considerate and respectful, but really afraid of what others might think and taking this as a crucial criterium for making decisions, for instance).

2. An overwhelming need to explain yourself and to be understood (I think this is your one. It's also mine, and in my life it's done tons of damage. Not with bullies, but otherwise. Just think how much time can be wasted like this!).


3. Constantly qualifying what you say in such a way that you actually continuously belittle yourself, your opinions, your qualifications.

I so do this! It comes from being paranoid that I'll be misunderstood in an environment where people put words in your mouth, but it usually backfires because people in the heat of an argument will gloss over your qualifiers anyway...and as you said they also make you seem less confident in your opinions.

4. Having some characteristic, preoccupation, ideas etc. which are exotic or unpopular in your group, and which serve to single you out. This one, I suspect, is the most obvious one.
Tolerating bad behaviour, or staying on after you have addressed bad behaviour and the situation wasn't resolved.


5. Showing your vulnerabilities in a reckless fashion. A lot of people do this , and I think it is a strategy that has, at times worked well for a lot of us, say, during early childhood. This is a bit akin to the submission rituals we see in dogs. For a bully, though, this is like a year full of Christmases. Don't do it with anyone before you know them really well and have good reason to trust them.
posted by timsneezed at 3:50 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I might be too late to be helpful, but take this advice, please:

I posted on a forum that was somewhat innocuous using a login of RealFirstNameRealLastName. No biggie. But someone on that forum disagreed with my viewpoint and the next time I logged on, they had put up links about me all over the place: links to an old blog, links to my Facebook, links to my home ZIP code, etc. with a message that said "I found this information online about RFNRLN."

It was my fault for using my real name in a forum, but the fact that they didn't like me so they decided to "expose" me made me realize just how little power I had in the situation. Anyone unhinged who didn't like what I said could easily track me down IN REAL LIFE. I never returned to that message board because it scared the crap out of me.
posted by tacodave at 4:20 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, the horrid forum has become your community and your main activity. Find a new place to hang out online, as well as new hobbies for real life, to fill the void. There are nice communities on the web, often in surprising places.
posted by theora55 at 5:48 PM on January 10, 2012


Hermitosis' suggestion for a past self meditation sounded so great that I Googled to find a description of one: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/08/my-favorite-meditation/

The Feeding Your Demons meditation is also pretty great: http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Your-Demons-Resolving-Conflict/dp/B001T391QG It basically leads you to visually imagine an inner turmoil and imagine turning that turmoil into an ally and then into an avatar to help you.

There are several guided MP3 meditations available here: http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/display.lasso?-KeyValue=32822 ... Meditation on the Breath is the common starting place before going on to any other guided meditations. Compassion And Tong-Len and the Meditation On Equanimity are also super relevant to your situation. I found the How to Meditate book to be a good primer.

Come to think of it, for a while I was doing a simple meditation where I would imagine that I was hugging someone that I really cared about. Then once I built up a good strong loving feeling in my chest, I would imagine that I was holding myself as a baby and sending that baby waves of loving-comfort. Finally, I would turn those good feelings towards my present self and hug myself.

For some people these meditative visualizations may sound silly, but they really can help you reframe and rewrite some of these internal dramas before you keep seeking them out over and over again. In any event, I hope you find something that works for you.
posted by Skwirl at 8:08 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


[Several comments deleted: There will absolutely be no more inter-site drama carried out here. Anyone continuing this personal spat anywhere on the site will be banned.]
posted by taz at 11:37 PM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


My experience on this is encountering related issues (people being made very unhappy by their presence on a board, but struggled to leave, although for different reasons) as a moderator of a relatively small message board...

First, you have to genuinely seek to leave - it sounds like the moderators have already done you a favor by banning you, but as you say it's easy to re-register. This is where the moderators might actually help you. If you are serious about not wanting to interact with the community ever again (or at least seeing no way in which you can do so which would be positive), and if the moderators are willing to help, you can ask them to ban/block any future ID they see which identifies as you or has your email address. At that point, to avoid being banned you would have to pretend to be somebody else entirely, which is almost impossible in highly emotional environments. Sort of the opposite of Brand New Day. In extremis, they might even be persuaded to block your IP range. There are ways around that - cyber cafes, proxies - but it adds another layer of complexity.

If you still register a new account, as soon as you are able change the password recovery email field to a false address and then, as advised, randomly hit keys in the password field. If you have to enter a new password twice, and so cannot do that, maybe zero out everything you can, then get a trusted friend to change just the password for you.

That's contributing. Stopping yourself from reading is trickier, because you probably have multiple devices with web access, and can access yet more. But hosts file, leechblocker. If you find you are repeatedly disabling or amending those, try installing Freedom and/or AntiSocial, and limit yourself. Just keep putting barriers in your way. It's harder to quit smoking with an open carton on your desk than it is with the same carton locked in a filing cabinet across the hall.

And - although perhaps not a good idea until you feel more confident and in control - remember that there are other forums, some of which will be more rigorously moderated and on none of which people know anything about you. When you were younger you had very limited social options, probably, and physically could not get away from e.g. schoolmates, whereas social options on the Internet are all about equally proximate and huge in number. Sometimes social groups become unhealthy, for whatever reason, and the only solution is to try to fix that or to find a new one.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:58 AM on February 7, 2012


(Forgot to say - if you can cut and paste a long stream of gibberish into both password windows, then delete it from your clipboard, that would work also - it's only if you can't C&P in that form that you need a third party.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:01 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the suggestions running. I installed leechblock on my computer a few weeks ago after starting this thread and I haven't been back to the site since. I have had the urge to lurk, but as you said it was too much trouble once I put up those barriers. It helps that I'm not especially tech savvy, so it's not easy for me to undo. Anyway it's only been a month but I already feel a lot better after removing myself from that toxic environment. I will keep your suggestions in mind, though, if I ever get serious about trying to create another account.
posted by timsneezed at 12:26 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, that's great - I just saw the thread and realised I'd seen people going through very similar things, so dropped in. I hope it all keeps going well, and that you keep feeling better.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:26 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Best way to paint a floor that...   |  How To Fit a Photo In New Twit... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.