So…this week was definitely a thing that happened.
I barely even know what day it is, and the rest of the month is going to be extremely tight because I’m now a week behind on freelance (and writing), but my head’s still kind of a mess.
I wrote a thread on Twitter, not thinking it would leave my sphere (most things don’t). If I’d thought the story of “Here’s a dude who creeped on me years ago that I shut down before he could do much damage and oh by the way I found out he’s in prison now for doing a murder” would go viral…I honestly wouldn’t have written it.
I feel badly saying that because I know posting my Letter of Shame provided a good template for reaffirming boundaries that people appreciated. I want to think it helped people. As a woman, I don’t often see a firm pushback against boundary crossing, it’s been through seeing other women in my life have those kinds of boundaries that I learned to state my own–as well as the consequences of those boundaries being breached. I was really proud of that.
But also, I am a fucking nobody.
I fight tooth and nail for any book sales at all. I live in poverty. I’m isolated due to multiple plagues while I navigate a serious autoimmune disease (it’s been 883 days since I had physical contact with another human being outside of doctors and nurses poking and prodding me) so I have very little interaction with people. I am not used to any public attention beyond my usual circle. It was already extremely difficult for me to handle hundreds of notifications a minute of likes, RTs, QTs, replies, follows, etc.
I had another boundary, initially implied but later stated in the original Twitter thread: Please stop trying to find this guy and attempting to link me to him.
That should be painfully obvious–this is someone who was deeply creepy and poised to involve me in endless harassment if I’d fallen for his grift, plus now he’s a murderer. I don’t want that associated with me and I deliberately didn’t name him. Even the fact that everyone kept getting it wrong wasn’t sufficient because, like, hai, I don’t want to be linked to a bunch of murderers at all! And if you get it right, I’ve just posted a semi-redacted copy of an email that humiliated him. Please do not put a target on me.
I like to believe most people are good, or just clueless, but a lot are not, and I did not like the type of attention I’d started to attract by the third day. I had a hundred people on my website digging into posts from 2014 when I dealt with this man, looking for things I referenced I guess in the hopes of finding him. Rifling through my personal life, my posts various places, my twitter.
That boundary crossing also had a consequence: now my account is locked and the thread is gone. I’m hoping to go back to normal by Monday.
I’m pretty much a wreck.
All the attention from being viral was hard on me to begin with because of my anxiety. That attention turning negative made it ten times worse. I posted a kind of thought-dump at Patreon during it all, trying to process while I felt like alternating between throwing up and bursting into tears, which did help a lot (and if you want something really raw and unfiltered, it’s there for all patrons).
Everything I’m feeling right now is all a biological process which, I guess, helps to identify and name? I understood the sensations I experienced–hypervigilance, panic attacks, etc–and that it’s a normal response to this kind of stimuli for me. I understood today that I was crashing after all that, which dumped a different cocktail of chemicals into my body that I’ve had to manage–resulting in headaches, executive dysfunction, brain fog, fatigue, pretty dark thoughts. I’m wavering on the edge of depression and doing what I can not to tip too far into it, and I’m mostly off social media because I saw a story of a missing elderly dog that sent me into hysterics crying so I know my stress cup is beyond a little full. I know I need to try to take care of myself for the next few days while I recover, and at least I’ve got a lot of grounding tricks I’ve picked up over the years to help a little (thanks PTSD!).
If you ever go through something like this, know that all those physical sensations you experience are extremely normal, and are temporary.
Yeah, temporary–it’ll be fine, but I have so much to do I really couldn’t afford this bullshit this week. And, you know, I’m actually fucking mad, because I sold a handful of books before I had to lock my account–every sale helps and now that’s gone too.
So anyway, here we are. If you find this and you read/shared/commented on that original thread and were cool: hey, thank you for that. Sorry it turned out like this. Hopefully that won’t happen again.
I did want to pull up that Letter of Shame for you.
I’ve trimmed a bunch out, but you can use this for a template if you want and read it with my example in mind.
- Repeat the boundary.
- Show how it was breached.
- Include what further evidence you’d like.
- Reaffirm the boundaries and conditions, if any, of future contact.
- Lay out the consequences (realistic ones) if that boundary is breached again.
THEN FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE CONSEQUENCE.
Don’t apologize. Don’t soften your words. Speak plainly and the only emotion you should be showing is fury (and contempt). I also repeat all the inappropriate behaviour so that if the receiver shares the email with others, they look like the asshole. This also has to be used only in certain circumstances with certain people, so be careful.
If you think me not replying to your unsolicited mail is rude and obnoxious, please buckle your seat belt as you are about to embark on a bumpy ride.
I already told you once, politely and clearly, that I am not accepting money from you. There was nothing more for me to answer. As you stated, you tried to engage in a game with me. I did not play. The end. Full stop. If you see a woman saying “no” as a sign that she’s open to negotiation, it’s your behavior that you should be analyzing, not mine.
I do not know you. At all. I have no idea who you are. All I see is a stranger sending me repeated emails trying to finagle my phone number and convince me to take money from him. Both of those things and your tone make me deeply uncomfortable to receive from a strange man, especially one who condescends to open his initial supposed business correspondence by calling a grown woman “kiddo”.
You do not know me. At all. If you had any of the familiarity with me you have presumed thus far, you would be aware of the fact that I have been very ill—often bedridden—for months now and I am very near losing my father at present.
And now, instead of using the extremely limited time of wellness I have available to me at the laptop to do paying work for my clients or talk with my family, I have to deal with…with what? Your butthurt and name-calling because a strange woman you do not know didn’t reply to an email from a strange man she does not know—an email that did not require a reply in the first place because a. you already had your answer from me, and b. you, being a total stranger, are not entitled to my time like my friends/family are. Offering a stranger money, while a seemingly generous act, does not automatically entitle you to communication from them, and if you think it does, it is not actually a generous act but one with something much more insidious behind it.
There are no times in my schedule that would permit a phone call with you. I am not going to call you. You are not receiving my number. Your persistence in this just reaffirms my gut instinct to not accept anything from you. There is absolutely no reason for us to speak on the phone and it is baffling to me that you insist there is.
[snip specific stuff for this person]
Now, I am quite grateful that you have found enjoyment in my books. I really mean that.
That’s where out interaction ends, however—as writer/reader. We’re not friends. We’re not acquaintances. We’re not business partners. We’re not “kindred spirits”. We are strangers who have no relationship and I have no obligations to you beyond the ones I set up with the crowdfunding campaign. You are welcome to send me polite email if you like a book as a reader; you are welcome to ask me questions about my books like anyone else. But that’s all.
If I receive any future mail from you that is hostile, insulting, baiting, or otherwise inappropriate/creepy, our direct interaction ceases, as is my policy in instances like this. Your messages will be forwarded to a third party associate of mine to be replied to and she will take over all my correspondence. This will also delay any packages/books/etc I am to mail to you because they will have to go through her first, so please give that consideration if you’re in a hurry for anything.
In case any of this is unclear, there is nothing to negotiate here. I don’t care what your intentions in emailing me were and I will brook no argument on the points above; you have repeatedly overstepped and made me uncomfortable with behavior any reasonable person would realize is inappropriate with a stranger. Any attempts to argue or negotiate further will tell me that you do not respect my boundaries and I will have no further correspondence with you.
That “third party” is of course Dina James, who once was targeted by an MRA from New Zealand who threatened to kill her and she offered to give him her address and be waiting should he ever make it across the pond. So that kind of consequence only works if you’ve got a person like that; otherwise, blocking entirely is an option.
If the breakdown I gave above for this kind of thing feels a little familiar to Livi readers, she used a shortened version in Yampellec’s Idol:
“Explain? Well, you’ve had a year to do that. So I’m done. I don’t care. You’re to get the fuck out of my house immediately. Anyone from your agency wants something from here, they send someone else. You are not allowed on my property. If you do not respect my wishes, I will take my family and move. You will not call me. If you do, I will change my number. If you persist, I will slap a restraining order on you, and out your status as a NOC operative. You will not show up at my house. You will not speak to me or my family ever again.”
I raised the gun again, and this time my hand didn’t shake. I squeezed the trigger and a bullet whizzed past his head to embed in the wall an inch to the left of his temple.
He froze head to toe in that way a cat can become entirely motionless, watching me warily.
I shifted my aim slightly so now the barrel was pointed directly at his forehead. “Get. Out. Of. My. House.”
I don’t have guns, but yeah, now you know where Livi gets it from.
Anyway, I’m staying hydrated, and eating vegetables, and stretching, and I’m so resentful of the fact that doing those things does help a little. Fuck you, broccoli.