I swear, when this is all over I’ll have all the experience required to teach a masterclass. I’m going to title it, This Still Isn’t About You Rodney: How to Include a Narcissist in Your Memoir. And people are going to sardonically use the name Rodney like they use the names Karen and Becky.
If you’ve had the chance to read the first few chapters of my non-fiction webserial, you know quite a bit about my marriage to a guy I call Rodney. (For those of you who haven’t had a chance or aren’t interested, let me give you a little background: Rodney is a self-professed compulsive liar, an unrepentant cheater, and an egomaniacal, manipulative boob.)
Although Who You Gonna Believe isn’t ABOUT Rodney per se, he’s a prominent character in early chapters. That’s because I’m recounting pivotal moments in my life that give context to the larger story and support the theme of my work. You know, basic storytelling shit.
Unfortunately for me, Rodney—who is at best a creepy lurker and at worst a cyber-stalker—has a keen interest in my memoir. And not in that harmlessly curious way your ex might wonder what you’re up to these days, either.
Recall that back in November I wrote about Rodney signing up to be my patron. I wondered then whether he was just not bright enough to use an alias or whether he was using his real name and email address intending to intimidate me. The post was my way of signaling that I wasn’t going to quit telling my story. I shared a link to it on Twitter, like I do everything I write, and not long after received an email from Rodney via my website contact form.
The letter was a laughably, transparently desperate attempt to blow smoke up my ass and make himself look better. Rodney all but ASKED me to share it with the world, so publishing it was the last thing I intended to do. “Just ignore it,” I told myself. “He gets off on the attention.” But the thing about ignoring a narcissist is that it’s simultaneously the only hope you have of getting him to leave you alone AND the best way to ensure he will keep harassing you.
Not getting immediate gratification from seeing his letter on my blog, Rodney tried needling me again—by favoriting one of my tweets. When I saw his nauseating face in my notifications, I immediately blocked his Twitter account. Then I asked a few people I trusted to help me determine the best course of action. We all eventually agreed that refusing to acknowledge him would cause the most suffering and ridiculed him mercilessly behind his back. (Hey, I’m only human.) Then, feeling much better after a good vent and a belly laugh, I went back to not thinking about Rodney for a while.
That is, until Saturday night when he signed up for my Patreon a second fucking time. “But I thought you said in your other post that he deleted his account,” I hear you saying. He did! And then he signed up again after I published Chapter 9: Corpse Pose—again using his real name, again using his real email.
I was in bed listening to the Sleep with Me podcast when I got the notification that Rodney’d shelled out another buck to secure his title as the World’s Biggest Slice of Dick Cheese. I rolled my eyes, scooted down the hall with my rollator to my get my laptop, and blocked him. Again.
Sunday morning I woke up, still slightly annoyed, and tweeted about this second Patreon sign-up. My sister-in-law texted me when she saw it.
“I’m stuck somewhere between ‘don’t give him airtime’ and ‘try to make money off of the drama,’” I confessed.
“Make that money, honey. Make it rain all day,” she said.
I have no idea if putting Rodney’s present awfulness on display will generate interest in WYGB, but I haven’t had a new patron sign up in a little bit, the appeal against Lincoln Financial Group is ongoing, and our SNAP benefits are fixing to be cut again, so I figure why not try? It’s not like I owe Rodney a single courtesy.
You guys might want to make some popcorn. I’m planning to post his letter soon-ish, and it’s going to be annotated.
Thanksgiving was lovely this year. Leading up to our family gathering I spent twelve days at my parents’ house. They live about two and half hours away from us. Mom and I got a head start on baking Christmas cookies (Frosted Ginger Creams cookie recipe below) while Dad and I butted heads over things like the Illinois gas tax and student loan debt forgiveness.
Thankfully, though, despite having solidly conservative parents, everyone present at the Thanksgiving table had established as early as 2016 that Donald Trump is a hateful, self-serving fraud who is unqualified to run a dishwasher, much less a country. So I didn’t have to hear anyone praise the man or any of his abhorrent policies. I know that’s not the case for a lot of people, though, so I recognize it for the blessing it is.
The hardest part about being away from home for so long was going days on end without Dan, Boomer, and Izzy. They are, and I say this without being glib, my emotional support beings. On top of a general increase in anxiety, my routines—which are a huge part of how I manage not to fall to pieces every day—were broken. So I ended up vaping a little more weed than usual and texting Dan in various states of emotional disarray a couple of times a day.
I’m reading this and thinking it sounds like I regret my trip. That’s not the case. I knew that being gone that long would be challenging. I wanted to do it. And I will likely do it again next year, provided my parents are agreeable.
I hope you had a chance to read Who You Gonna Believe last weekend. It’s always two parts exciting and one part scary to offer it up for public consumption. Despite the slight panic, I got Chapter 9: Corpse Pose published on Tuesday. Without giving up spoilers, I will let you know that, yes, I do swear again in this installment. Chapter 10 is slated for a December 30 release, but it’s always so crazy this time of year. Please spot me a couple of days just in case.
Now for that holiday cookie recipe I promised. The story is that my grandma got this recipe from a co-worker at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. The cookies are spicy and warm like a ginger snap but much softer. When I was a kid my mom and I would usually bake these as bars in a jelly roll pan. I don’t have a cooking time for that on the recipe card, but if I remember right it was about the same amount of time, 8 to 10 minutes.
Frosted Ginger Creams
½ c. shortening
½ c. sugar
1 t. ginger
½ t. cloves
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. salt
2 t. baking soda
½ c. milk
1 c. molasses
3 c. flour
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add spices and salt. Combine baking soda with milk and add to the creamed mixture. Add molasses and flour and mix to form a soft batter. Drop by spoonful on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350° F for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.
We top these with a very simple frosting of confectioners’ sugar and water, and we just eyeball that until it reaches the consistency we like.
That’s my update. Now I want hear from you guys. How was your November?
Time to plug one of my affiliate partners: Shipt grocery delivery. I swear they have been a lifeline for us. If you use my link to buy a membership, I’ll get a few cents to help keep the (literal and figurative) lights on around here. They’re running a pretty sweet BOGO for $49 offer right now. Punch your zipcode into their finder to see if they’re in your city.
Last Saturday there was another writeup on my continuing saga with Lincoln Financial Group. This time the article was published on Relation State, a blog run by a good, progressive-leaning friend of mine who wanted to assist me in my mission to warn people away from LFG and its products.
In a goodwill effort to reach a larger crowd, my friend shared the post on the Relation State Facebook page. For the most part, people were sympathetic. But there’s always that one guy, isn’t there? This time, the guy’s name was Bob.
Bob, bless his heart, seems to think he’s immune to the havoc a billion-dollar company like Lincoln Financial can wreak. He commented, probably without knowing I was in the audience, that whatever the insurance company had done, the fault was with me. “I got what I paid for,” and “I should’ve read the fine print,” he said.
It’s almost cute how Bob believes Lincoln Financial discloses their misdeeds in writing at all, let alone before a customer pays her premiums.
But some people, and I think it’s safe to assume Bob is one of them, cling to an oversimplified, conservative notion of capital-P, capital-R Personal Responsibility. They prefer believing they’re better and smarter than the rest of us over acknowledging that shit can happen to them too. Lincoln Financial Group counts on people like Bob to keep their secrets safe.
Bob’s comments reveal the crux of his personal philosophy: his fortune isn’t fortune at all—it’s superior intelligence. By his logic, I’m just gullible or stupid or both, and that’s the real crime here.
Despite the insults we attract from people who don’t get it, it’s important for me and people like me to keep telling our stories. Why? Because when we talk in generalities, the information doesn’t stick. The world stays complacent. Someone else gets brain cancer and instead of accessing the safety net she paid for, an insurance company records an immorally large profit, profiteering doctors like Brian Samuels and Lee Hartner line their wallets, and a disabled woman with a brain tumor forgoes medicine and racks up additional debt just to keep the lights on.
We can throw a wrench in the works, slow—maybe even halt—the conveyor belt carrying our money to liars and racketeers.
But not if we’re content to be like Bob.
As a patient who was horribly misdiagnosed (they told me I had fibromyalgia but it was really a brain tumor) for more than two years, I learned a thing or two about how to get your doctor to listen.
Going through life with a misdiagnosis—or no diagnosis at all—is as hard to bear as whatever’s ailing you. Not everyone is born a self-advocate. It’s something we must learn and practice.
So here’s what I’ve learned. I sincerely hope it can help you too.
Why Won’t Your Doctor Listen?
It may be that your doctor, though well-intentioned, isn’t picking up on what you’re telling her. Or maybe you’re not communicating as clearly as is needed. Or, you know, maybe your doctor is just an asshole. (I’m telling you some of them are.) For me, it was a little bit of everything.
First, let me assure you that if you are currently facing this struggle, there’s a good chance it’s not your fault. There’s also a good chance you’re a woman. The problem of sexism in health care is long-running and systemic.
According to Prevention, for example, women are 50% more likely than men to get a wrong diagnosis after experiencing a heart attack, and hysteria wasn’t removed from the DSM until 1980.
But as the world can attest, cutting ridiculous junk from a manual doesn’t automagically remove stigma and prejudice from a profession or a populace. From psychology to surgery, health care is still plagued by crap assumptions that undermine the care of women.
And it’s not just the old white guys who are guilty of perpetuating harm—women doctors do it to women patients, families and friends do it to people they love.
We. Do. It. To. Ourselves.
My Misdiagnosis Story in a Nutshell
For me personally, the trouble started because I was a woman in my thirties presenting with chronic pain. It was generalized, meaning I hurt everywhere not just my elbow or my neck. And because the pain prevented me from being active, I was also gaining weight.
Before a single drop of blood was taken, a nurse practitioner told me I probably had fibromyalgia. I was tested for arthritis and a handful of autoimmune issues straight away, then referred to a rheumatologist the following week.
When the blood test results were wholly unremarkable, the rheumatologist presumed me to just be a pudgy, complaining woman in need of antidepressants.
Unsurprisingly, he officially diagnosed me with fibro, a condition with a unique and horrifying stigma all its own. And when his (mis)treatment plan failed to help me, he put the blame squarely on my shoulders. His demeanor toward me turned hostile, he communicated with me like I was an ignorant, troublemaking child, and he was outright belligerent when I asked him questions.
How dare a uterus-having technical writer ask if maybe Cymbalta wasn’t The Answer.
That’s when I knew without a doubt my rheumatologist was a lazy stinking misogynist, which brings me to my first bit of advice.
Tip 1: Fire All the Assholes
Yes, I know what I’m saying is very difficult to do in a lot of cases. Restrictive insurance networks, a limited number of doctors in your area, and sheer exhaustion from your illness can make finding a new doctor all but impossible. But your health is the thing, and you can’t protect it if you keep leaving it in the hands of an asshole.
Cry because it’s hard and unfair. Absolutely do that. But then remember that you don’t have to solve the problem in one day. Promise yourself to look for a better option and jump at the opportunity when you find it.
Tip 2: Expect Struggles with Good Doctors Too
Not all my doctors were so lazy and horrible, but by the time I was ready to give another doctor a try, Dr. Asshole had already done his worst.
He was given the benefit of the doubt at every subsequent doctor appointment I had for the following two and half YEARS, and at least a dozen more MDs and PAs and NPs tried their best to persuade me I really did have fibro after his misdiagnosis.
It’s maddening if you think about it too long, but medical professionals—even fired ones—are always presumed to know more about being sick than the people who are sick. You’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for this reality before every appointment.
Tip 3: Take Time Off from Seeing Doctors
Meanwhile, I continued experiencing symptoms that didn’t really fit with fibro. The unexplained haunted me, and I got sicker. I surfed WebMD and Dr. Google and tried to diagnosis myself. When I asked doctors about the things I’d learned, it didn’t go well. If I wasn’t ridiculed on the exam table, I was politely ignored.
There were days when I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I didn’t. I took time off from going to appointments and even scheduling appointments until I recovered enough strength to deal with more heartache from doctors—people I was taught to trust with my life. I told myself I’d go again when I had the energy to communicate without bursting into tears.
And, yes, I did break down a few times. It’s inevitable, dear human. Don’t beat yourself up about it like I did.
Tip 4: Ask To Rule Out Diagnoses
I had infinitely more productive appointments when I stopped asking “Could it be X?” and started asking “Can we rule out X?” I don’t see why such a subtle change should matter so much, but it did.
Doctors were less likely to see me as a difficult, self-diagnoser and more likely to see me as a diagnostic partner when I asked if we could rule something out instead of confirm it. In fact, no one bothered to order a single MRI until I asked, “Can we rule out MS?”
Folks, that first MRI is how they found my brain tumor. Or, as I see it, how *I* found my brain tumor.
Tip 5: Recognize the Bullshit You’ve Internalized
We can be our own worst enemy when we take in and internalize bad messages from external sources. Sexist and ableist ideals can ooze out of us without our realizing it. We can be gaslit by medical pros without seeing the harm because we’re taught to treat them as authority figures or saviors instead of trained diagnosticians paid to do a job.
Mull it over for a bit and see if you’ve fallen into traps that affect your ability to self-advocate.
- Do you hear yourself as a reporter of facts or a complainer when you tell a doctor your symptoms?
- Do you think all your problems would go away if you could just lose the weight?
- Do you always think you’re sick because you’re depressed and not depressed because you’re sick?
That asshole rheumatologist I mentioned before? He’d only ever seen me fat and just assumed I was lazy and overeating. He had no idea that less than a year before I was running 5Ks on the treadmill or completing a Jillian Michaels’s Shred workout in my basement five times a week.
Still, I had to fight like hell not to let him gaslight me. He nearly had me convinced I was fat and lazy and my pain was imagined.
Tip 6: Take Someone with You
I’m as independent as the day is long, and I’ll tell you I hated bringing my husband to appointments with me at first. Not because I minded him being there, but because IT SHOULDN’T FUCKING BE NECESSARY. (Ahem, sorry. This will always be a sensitive subject for me.)
However, when I couldn’t put my own underwear on or get myself out of the bathtub anymore, I relented and asked him to join me at my next appointment. Being stubborn about it might’ve killed me, looking back on it. Anyway, having a man in the room changed the way all my doctors behaved. Some definitely more than others.
Turns out it would later become absolutely essential for Dan to attend my appointments. The point is that I probably should have asked sooner than I did, given how the world works.
Tip 7: Connect with Other Patients
I know there are patients out there with different perspectives who have learned things I haven’t. I encourage you to seek them out. There’s an entire community of doctors and patients on Twitter, for example, who are constantly sharing what they know. Seek them out.
And if you’ve got a story to tell, questions to ask, or tips to share, please comment on this post for the benefit of others. We’d love to hear from you!
Did you find this post helpful?
Leave a tip.
On the night of November 1, I couldn’t sleep. So I grabbed my cell phone from my nightstand, thinking I’d play a mindless game until I eventually crashed. Before I could open the game app, though, an email notification popped up. I had a new message from Patreon. Normally, I’m excited to acquire a new patron, but on that night my mouth turned dry and my heartbeat became irregular. My large intestine seized and the acid in my stomach sloshed in waves.
“New $1 Patron! Meet [Rodney]” the subject line read.
Yup. My ex-husband had signed up to read my memoir. Only he used his real name and his real email address to do it, not the pseudonym I’ve given him. I know he still stalks me online and don’t usually give it a second thought, but that night I started to fill with rage. It began in my toes and had worked itself up to about my collarbone before I recognized it for the resurfacing trauma it was.
Writing the memoir can also trigger such a response, but I’m aware of what I’m doing to myself and can mentally prepare to deal with the feelings before they morph into physical malady. Being triggered unexpectedly by some else—the asshole ex no less—well, that required time to gathering my wits.
In the middle of defending myself to myself in my head (don’t pretend you don’t do it too), I stopped abruptly, letting the amateur therapist in my brain take over.
“It’s my story to tell. If he doesn’t like—” Me-Me was saying.
“Didn’t you tell yourself he would probably pull a stunt like this when you started the project?” Therapist-Me interjected.
“Huh? Oh. Yes.”
“And what was your conclusion at that time?” Therapist-Me prodded.
“Fuck him. Who cares?” Me-Me replied, somewhat unsure.
“Right. And what’s different now?”
“Nothing,” I said. “His existence literally doesn’t matter to me anymore.”
Therapist-Me paused, waiting to see if Me-Me had anything to add. I did. “OMG! This is absolutely hilarious! Is he trying to intimidate me by paying me $1? I have to tell Melanie. I have to blog about this. But first I have to block him from commenting on Patreon. He doesn’t get to make MY story about him. Do you remember when he hijacked the comment threads on my old blog? Narcissist gonna…narcissist?”
My thoughts trailed off as I opened the Patreon app to block my ex-husband’s account. The app notified me that the requested action couldn’t be completed because the account had been deleted.
I don’t honestly know whether “Rodney” meant to pop in for a minute to intimidate me and thought giving me a dollar was the best way to do it, or if he just couldn’t help himself. Maybe his curiosity got the better of him and he just had to have a look. Maybe he didn’t realize the name and email he used to create his patron account would be sent to me. (In which case, what a dipshit! Next time use an alias and a burner email, you twit.)
I don’t know if Rodney had enough time to read all the published chapters of Who You Gonna Believe before he bailed, but there’s plenty of time for YOU to catch up before a new chapter drops on November 30. Your patronage gets you all the juicy details AND it helps me keep the lights on.
Think about it!
Welcome to the new and improved EmilySuess.com! Now with 30% more cancer-kicking, LFG-shaming, memoir-promoting AWESOME.
I’m excited to say that with the help of some great people (Thanks, Dan! Thanks, Jenn! Thanks, Eva! Thanks, Jerry! Thanks, Patrons!) I’m now self-hosted.
With the change comes more flexibility and control in bringing you guys new content, and I hope you like it.
Fancy New Blog Post Layout
- You can rate posts now. Let me know how much (or little) you appreciate what I write. Look for the stars at the bottom of each post.
- Images are way better. That’s because I had enough donation money left over after paying hosting fees to sign up for Canva Pro. (I like Canva so much, I became an affiliate partner to help me cover future site maintenance fees and stuff. Get a free 30 day trial with my link.)
- Sharing my posts is super easy. Just pick a platform from the sharing options at the bottom of the page and click.
- To see all of my blog posts in a standard feed from newest to oldest, just click “Blog” in the header.
Don’t Forget to Subscribe to emilysuess.com
- To get new posts in your inbox, enter your email in the “Subscribe” widget. (Found in the top right on desktop or below the main content on mobile.) Emails will go out via MailChimp about 2:00 pm on weekdays, provided I’ve made a new post. NOTE: If you were signed up before, there’s no need to sign up again.
There Might Be A Wrinkle or Two
- There are a few known issues with my site right now, the big ones being slow loading and the occasional 504 Timeout. I expect to have the wrinkles ironed out soon. In the meantime, however, I appreciate your patience. I’m not an expert and radiation ate some brain cells—sometimes I break things harder before I fix them.
I don’t have anything new to report for my October update, but I thought I should check in. I didn’t want you guys assuming the worst about my absence.
The Fight Against Lincoln Financial Group
The legal junk with Lincoln Financial Group continues. I have nothing new to report, just another reminder that they are awful and you should tell your family and friends to never do business with them. If your employer offers disability insurance benefits through Lincoln Financial Group, you might even want to mention why you won’t be taking those benefits and ask them to reconsider even offering such an insulting “benefit” to the people who give up 40 hours or more of their lives for The Man every week.
This Here Blog
I won’t be updating here much for a while. I don’t have the money to keep up my WordPress subscription, so it’ll revert to the free offering when my current subscription runs out next month. You might not even notice a difference if you stop by the site after that, but just in case you do—you’ll know why.
In an ideal world, I’d be able to scrape some money together and go back to a self-hosting situation—take back full control of things at emilysuess.com again—like back in the day. But as you know, this is not an ideal world. I’m not giving up on that dream altogether, though I have accepted that it won’t be happening real soon.
So, bottom line is: just expect me to post around here super infrequently until I get other parts of my life sorted and have some time and energy to weigh my website/blog options. I promise if anything major happens, I’ll slap something up and let you know.
Jesus, that site is a cesspool these days. I haven’t been on there much lately either, which is where I was sure I was going to land when I quit doing Facebook because Mark Zuckerburg is an unscrupulous taint on society. But I seem to be losing control over the content showing up in my feed there too, and Trump and the bots have just ruined what used to be a good, fun thing for me. So fuck Jack. I turned off my notifications.
I still make the occasional appearance there, but mostly to self-promote or watch the videos of baby goats jumping on beds that Dan drops in my DMs. I try my damnedest to avoid the depression that accompanies the 24/7 inanity of what Twitter presumes I want to see day in and day out. I tried to tweak my feed to my liking there for a while, but either I’m not as adept at those things as I once was or Twitter has just trashed The Damn Algorithms.
I will respond to your DMs and don’t mind getting them there, but if you need a response quickly it’s best just to text or email me. If you don’t have my number or my email address, ask—or use the contact form on this site. It goes straight to my gmail account.
Patreon and My Memoir
It’s simultaneously the least and the most I can do right now. I’d like to be able to post new chapters maybe a couple times a month, but I can’t handle it. People who write memoirs about their life’s traumas are beating themselves up, and I—a depressed woman with no money and a brain tumor—am no exception. Reliving certain hells is even harder when you’re chronically sick.
But I need the money.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not a 100% awful endeavor. I am rewarded by accomplishing things. Even if it’s only writing 1800 words a month. And I really get a boost when a patron comments or messages me that they relate to Who You Gonna Believe? in some way. I know it’s just small-time, but I hope to find a wider audience for it someday. And hopefully not posthumously!
Around the holidays or maybe for the new year, I’m pondering running a limited-time offer of some sort to get more people to join my little Patreon community. We’ll see.
Anywho, if you want to read the sordid details of how my first marriage fell apart right flipping now, you can do it for a buck. You can read the preface and all eight existing chapters in a day if you want, then unsubscribe when you’re done. You can come back eight chapters later and do the same thing if you want. In fact, I encourage it. I mean, that’d be $2 I wouldn’t have otherwise!
That’s all I can think of for now, and this weather we’re having is giving me all the aches. Bed is calling.
Until next time, Happy Halloween!
Support Emily with a one-time donation at paypal.me/EmilySuess