Support Group? Feh!
Oh, my. My hands are shaking. My heart is quaking. I am about ready to check myself in for an encore of shock treatments. And why, you might ask?
Because I recently joined a bipolar message board.
I came looking for support and understanding. Instead, I found myself in a weird alternate universe where I was apparently an outcast among outcasts.
I have joined many message boards--for writers, substance abusers, artists, those with mood disorders. All have been completely civilized and well-moderated. A few are absolutely fantastic. But in this particular group, the inmates were (you should pardon the expression) quite literally running the asylum, and they were rabidly hunting for fresh blood.
There was a woman who posted the other day who had just been unceremoniously dumped via e-mail by her boyfriend of several years. I, along with others in the group, wrote to express our sympathy and support. I crafted an e-mail which I thought was thoughtful and sensitive. I said that my heart went out to her; that I had almost cried when I read her post, that I hoped and prayed that she would find a man who would treat her the way she deserved to be treated. But almost as soon as I could hit the "send" button, I was deluged with hate mail from a bipolar lynch mob whose fury knew no bounds.
Apparently, my words of support were not delivered in the "correct" manner. I was condescending, and stereotyping all women as victims. I tried to defend myself, but the more I posted the deeper I got pulled in and the more I felt like taking a double dose of my meds. In exasperation, I finally wrote a post entitled "What a Bunch of Wackos!" Oh boy, I thought I was in trouble before. Apparently this was a grave slur upon my fellow emotionally challenged group members.
So the following day, I took a deep breath and decided to approach the problem with a little levity. When I received a verbal barb, I lobbed one right back in a sarcastically humorous fashion. Huge mistake. That got one baiter so riled up that she ordered me never to respond to any of her posts ever again and to leave her alone. I quickly hit the "reply" button and gleefully wrote: "Gotcha!"
By the end of this escapade, some in the group were worked up into quite a manic lather. Unfortunately for me, the moderator not only apparently allowed flaming on a regular basis, but chose who could post gratuitously vicious messages with relative impunity and who could not. Guess who got chastised?
Oh how I wish she had come to my defense the other day, when I was so cruelly attacked from all sides! But alas, the "cool" members of the group ruled; while those with "saner" viewpoints were (I imagine) too cowed to dare speak a word against it.
After one of my newfound friends mentioned something sarcastic about my "stupid blog" (which I had invited one and all to post a comment on) I informed the group that I now intended to write something about the whole sordid experience here. I had not joined the group with this intention, but the material was so irresistible that as a writer I just couldn't pass it up.
One paranoid person then chimed in imagining that I was the mysterious poster of yore who had warned the group that they had been posting under multiple names in order to gather material for an article.
After all this fracas, I was on the verge of being kicked out of the group by the oh-so-unbiased moderator. So I unsubscribed.
And here I am, trying to calm down.
By the way: this whole fiasco did bring to mind a particular observation I've often made about maligned groups: they are often super sensitive to the point of paranoia about others' supposed bigotry against them, but they are often completely indifferent to slurs against other groups.
For instance, one poster offered a blatantly racist little item about Mexicans. When I had posted the "What a Bunch of Wackos" message the day before, you'd better believe I got taken down a peg or two for engaging in such a horrible slur against the mentally ill. But after this gentleman's post, the only responses (other than mine) were comments like "that's so funny! or "I hear ya, dude!" (I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that was the gist of it.) Guess there are no bipolar Mexicans out there, so what the hey.
So it just goes to prove that the lesson I've learned so very long ago still holds true:
There are a##holes of all nationalities, races, and creeds--and plenty of 'em.
I'm going to turn off "Herman" (my beloved PowerMac) for awhile and let him take a well-deserved nap. And I think I'll wait til tomorrow to tackle the rest of my e-mail--just in case they haven't gotten around to "unsubscibing" me yet.