Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast. Today I want to share with you all something that has been going on for a while now. For months, I have been harassed online by an anonymous troll who has been leaving really terrible, disgusting comments on my social media accounts. I want to share with you today some ways that I have dealt with this situation and to really give you some tools to manage the bully in your life, whether that takes the form of a real person or if that bully takes the form of fear and anxiety.
Initially I tried doing what I would do when I am faced with fear. I simply tried not engaging. These are the same tools you would use to manage intrusive thoughts and anxiety, which is, you just don't engage with them. You set strong boundaries and you bring your attention back to the things that you value. So I was trying that for a while. Then I realized that I wasn't setting strong enough boundaries. I was keeping what was happening a secret because I was feeling a lot of shame around this situation. When shame shows up, we tend to go underground. We keep it from people. But shame lives in the darkness. It can't survive in the light. So bringing it out into the light is where you actually have less pain because you've shared it with someone and you are validated. That was an incredible lesson to me.
If you have a bully in your life, or if fear is your bully, you can apply the same things, which is, I am not engaging in any bully-like behavior. Not today, not tomorrow because I matter. My values matter. The people I love matter. I'm not giving attention to this, which is ineffective.
I hope that this podcast today gives you some empowerment and permission to set boundaries and disengage with people who are ineffective in your life, who hurt you, who say unkind things, who do not treat you well.
If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!
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Transcription of Ep. 174:
Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I'm your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn't get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain't easy. If that sounds good to you, let's go.
Welcome back, friends. How are you? I'm really happy to be here with you. I actually needed this moment to just slow down, settle into my chair, pull out my microphone and say, “Hey, how are my crowd? How are my people? How is this amazing community doing?”
First of all, thank you for being here. Second of all, I'm grateful for you guys. So grateful more than I ever, ever have been for reasons I will share in this episode. I have to first start by saying, I have literally got the best community. You guys are so cool. I have learned this through a very difficult process in the last couple of weeks, months, year, because it's been going on for a while.
For those of you who don't follow me on social media, I have been just recently public about one or two social media trolls who have recently really heavily and aggressively attacked me both verbally and, mostly verbally, but with significant sexual content. If this is a trigger for you and you have some trauma around this, I won’t be giving details, but I just want to give you a little trigger alert because the degree in which I was being harassed on social media was sexual harassment. I wanted to just reflect on this today.
I'm always going to be honest with you. I'm going to keep it real. I'm going to share what I feel is helpful, and I hope that this is helpful because there is a really, really powerful message here. I'll give it to you right up the front.
The powerful message is: Don't ever allow a human being to change the way you think about yourself. That's going to be one of the main messages.
The second message is, I have been on this podcast for many, many years, telling you guys how to manage intrusive thoughts and anxiety. It turns out the cool news is that you can handle other social media trolls or people who don't really bring a ton of value to your life in exactly the same way that you do intrusive thoughts and anxiety, which is you just don't engage with them. You set strong boundaries with them and you just bring your attention back to the things that you value. It's a cool approach.
Let me tell you the story. For many months, I am and other OCD advocates actually, probably ones you know very well, have been receiving these most hateful, disgusting, just mean comments and messages, and that's fine. That's okay. I mean, it's not fine, but what I'm saying is, that happens, unfortunately, to anybody on social media. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people can get behind an Instagram handle or a Facebook account and spinelessly throw a bunch of mean hateful words at people. It happens all the time. A lot of my high profile clients that I see in my office have reported this to me for years, that social media can be a really, really scary place.
Like I said to you guys, and let me segue back to, this has made me appreciate you guys more than ever, because you guys have been nothing but supportive to me, kind, helpful, warm, supportive with each other and me. It is so cool. I'm so grateful for you. I really, really am. But for almost a year, I have been getting these messages, and my approach was, like I said, to do what I do with anything that doesn't bring me value in my life, which is I delete it or I block it, and I don't engage with it. So that's the piece I do with fear.
Fear can show up. I don’t block that, but I don't engage with it. I'm not going to give it my attention. Often it doesn't require my attention. It's just going to be there. So that's how I handled it each time.
But what was happening is I would delete and block this person or these people. At a higher and higher frequency, they were creating more and more and more and more accounts under different names and doing the same behavior. The reason I knew it was one to two people is because they were using exactly the same hateful language.
There's a couple of messages here, a couple of lessons myself, and I just wanted to share them with you and reflect. At one point, it was getting to be so disturbing that I started to share with a couple of really trusted friends what was happening. They immediately said, “Huh, this is very similar to OCD work. You have the thought or you have the feeling and you don't do anything. You just don't engage.” I thought, “Yeah, that's so cool.”
But what quickly became apparent is they started to say, “Why aren't you calling this person out? Why aren't you setting stronger boundaries with this person?” I had reflected on this, and I thought, “Well, I think underneath, I had a tremendous degree of shame around this. I had a tremendous degree of distaste about this and I wanted to just push it away.”
It got to the point where, one day, I basically deleted probably up to 20 accounts. I spent pretty much the entire day on social media, trying to block this person. They said, “Why would you put in all that effort? Just tell people that you're struggling with this and call it out.” I thought, “Huh, that's such an interesting thought.” It was shocking to me that I had a ton of shame around that.
I wanted to tell you this, not because I just wanted to blab on about my experience, but I'm just hoping that you, if anything similar, or someone has been unkind to you in person or on social media, that you can recognize that when shame shows up, we tend to go underground. We keep it from people. We hide it from people. But shame lives in the darkness. It can't survive in the light. So bringing it out into the light is where you actually have less pain because you've shared it with someone and they've acknowledged you and they're validated you and they're helping you. You're not alone now.
That was an incredible lesson to me, which is ironic because I talk about it all the time and I share about this concept all the time. Because it was happening to me, I got short-sided. Again, I'm going to keep saying, if this is happening to you, catch how much you're silencing your own pain. Catch how you're doing it on your own in isolation, not sharing it with people.
What was really wonderful is, once that they said, “Hey, shout it out. Let people know what's happening. You can't protect people from this all day. You can't be blocking this person all day just to protect others from seeing this message about you. Tell them what's happening.”
You know what shocked me here guys? Within four hours, a whole bunch of people who I know, but not that well, came out in support of me. They were ready to support me, and that blew my mind. It made me realize how incredibly strong this community is. It made me realize how much of a team we are, that they, on a topic that I had a lot of shame around, came out and stood up for me and said, “We stand with you in solidarity. This is not okay.”
I want you to know that you have a community right here who will do the same for you, who will stand up and say, “Please be aware of your stigma that you're saying about mental illness. Please let me educate you about what OCD is because it's not what you think it is. Please let me help you understand that depression is not laziness. Please let me help you understand that people aren't struggling because they want to, they’re struggling because they're stuck.” There's a part of a community who's willing to stand up for you as well.
This was just mind blowing to me. And for any of you who have been trolled on social media or harassed, or have any kind of bully in their life, I want to really, really encourage you to treat it with the tools that you've already been given to manage fear. Don't engage in it. Stand up for yourself. Set strong boundaries with it. We just did a huge podcast on that the other day. Set boundaries with it. And then you return back to the thing you value.
What I noticed is, this was so shocking and horrifying to me that I couldn't stop thinking about it for a little bit. And then I was like, “Wait a second. My children are right here. I don't value this human being. I value my children. I value my husband. I value you guys, my community. I value my work. I value my health.”
Let's practice. While we have this discomfort, while this event happens, which means nothing about me - it means everything about the person and nothing about me - while this happens, I'm going to go back to engaging in what I value.
Now my mind kept saying, “Oh no, no. You go back on. Just check, check, check, just to see.” I'll be like, “No, I'm not,” because I'm not going to let that kind of behavior change how I act today. I want to look back on today and say, “I'm really confident and proud of that.” This was huge to me.
I wanted to share it with you because if you have a bully in your life, or if your fear is your bully, or if you are your bully, you can apply the same things, which is, I am not engaging in any bully-like behavior. Not today, not tomorrow because I matter. My values matter. The people I love matter. I'm not giving attention to this, which is ineffective.
Now, what am I going to say? Totally easier said than done. Let's be real. Totally easier said than done. But I hope that this podcast today gives you some empowerment that gives you permission to set boundaries and disengage with people who are ineffective in your life, who hurt you, who say unkind things, who do not treat you well.
One of the most important pieces of self-compassion is self-respect. Self-respect comes first, which was respecting that you matter, that you're worthy and that no one's allowed to say bad stuff about you, including ourselves and what we say about ourselves.
Last piece of the puzzle here is that once I came out and said, “Hey everybody, this is what's happening.” I don't endorse it. It's terrible. It's disgusting. Please, if you see it, ignore it. Treat it like an intrusive thought. Everyone came out in drones and supported me, DM to me, commented, was so kind.
What was so fascinating here is, this person then created another account and said, “Oh, you just took it too seriously. I was just giving you compliments.” I was like, “Wait a minute. That's the definition of gaslighting.” For those of you who don't know, gaslighting is someone doing a behavior or acting in a certain way and then turning around and blaming you for it. It's a huge problem in communication. We want to try to eliminate gaslighting in communication.
Again, I felt gaslit, and my immediate response was, “Huh, was I being too sensitive?” That last did literally like a millisecond. And I was like, “No, that's gaslighting.”
If you're in a situation where someone is being a bully to you, and then they tell you you're being too sensitive, that's gaslighting. You're not being too sensitive. You deserve to be treated well. You deserve to be taken care of. Really, really important stuff.
In those moments, if you do feel like someone's now blaming you for something that they did, your job is to step down into compassion and go, “No, I'm going to honor that that was painful for me.” This is the same for when someone goes, “Oh, I'm so OCD,” or “I'm so bipolar,” or “I'm so psychotic today.” They’re using it as a joke and it hurts you. And then they turn around and they say to you, “You're being too sensitive. Why does everything have to be so pissy?” You're allowed to go, “No, you just gaslit me right. It's painful for me. Therefore, it matters. Therefore, it's real. You can't discount that.” Really important stuff.
It happens a lot around mental illness. There's a lot of stigma there. I think there's a lot of opportunity for people to gaslight about that. I really want to make sure I brought that in as the final piece of this episode.
So that's that. I'll keep fighting the fight. This person didn't go away, and I don't care, to be honest.
What did I learn?
1. You guys are amazing.
2. I feel so supported by you, thank you.
3. I don't need to engage in this stuff. It doesn't deserve my time.
4. Catch when people try to redirect blame on to you because that can help you go down a spiral of self-criticism and self-punishment.
I love you so much. Thank you so much for being here.
Last of all, I'm going to ask you another favor. I'm going to stop mentioning this often in the podcast. My goal is to get a ton of more exposure with the podcast this year. It is a free service that we offer, offering free tools for those who don't have access to treatment, or if they do, it's to supplement that.
If you have the time and you're interested, would you do me a huge favor and go and leave a review, an honest review? Let me know what you think of this show, with this episode. I would be so grateful. I have decided that once we get to a thousand reviews, I will give away a free pair of Beats headphones so you can listen to the podcast on full volume and hear my voice full volume. Add just one review by random. I'm so excited to do that, and I'm really excited to get that up and running.
Go leave a review. I would love to see it. I might even start to highlight some reviews here in the next few weeks because I will be reading them and valuing every single one. Thank you so much.
Have a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to do hard things that includes also sometimes being bullied by people or trolled. But we are strong, we are resilient and we are able to do this together. I love you guys so much. Have a wonderful day.
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