Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trollegitimi non carborundum

A simple cure for trolls: crack an egg on their heads!
Trolls offer simple, wrong solutions to painful, complex problems

One of the most astonishing benefits of the Internet is that it has made us all instant experts about other people’s lives.  We can skim a Facebook status update and immediately diagnose the obvious causes of and solutions to a child’s mental illness, where trained therapists and psychiatrists have tried for months or years to provide answers.  In fact, some of us are such “experts” that we just can’t quit posting—we have to argue our point until it is dead, buried, and reincarnated as a three-toed sloth somewhere in Madagascar. Then we have to hunt down the sloth, kill it again, bury it, and…

The Internet community has a name for people like this: trolls

I’m not exactly sure where this term comes from. Is it because they lurk under blog posts, coming out to challenge any viewpoint that disagrees with their own? Or is it just because they are really ugly, mean people? Or some combination?

I have a theory. I don’t think that trolls are actually mean people. I think if a troll were standing behind me in the grocery store checkout line, s/he would be perfectly pleasant. We would probably talk about the weather, because that’s just what people tend to talk about when they are not on the Internet pummeling people with their brilliance (in ALL CAPS, of course).

Trolls are especially good at diagnosing the simple, unambiguous cause of my child’s mental illness. It's definitely one of these:
  • No father/stepfather/male role model in the home.  
  • Violent video games.
  •  Red Vines/vaccinations/gluten/casein/soy protein/no soy protein (etc.)
  • Demons
  • Me (bad parent, poor prenatal care, not enough discipline, too much discipline, etc.)
  • My child (willful, disobedient, etc.)
Trolls offer equally simple proposed solutions:
  • Find a new dad for my kids (aside: could someone make a Disney movie about this one please? Because I would really love to see the Disney movie where Dwayne Johnson comes into the single mother’s life and rescues her kid—oh wait, that was Journey 2: The Mysterious Island  and it was like my FAVORITE MOVIE EVER!)
  •  Only let my teenage sons play games based on “MyLittle Pony.
  • Dietary supplements. Lots of expensive dietary supplements.
  • An exorcism (when I told my priest about this, he looked at me and laughed).
  • Crack a raw egg on my kid’s head.
Yeah. I’m actually not going to do any of those things (though the supplements are tempting, so tempting! Also, the egg, but mostly because that seems like it would be kind of funny.)

But I am also not going to criticize anyone who claims that any (or all) of these solutions has worked for their child. Because you know what? We all want something that works for our kids.

And that, to my mind, is the place where many of those mental illness trolls come from. They’ve found a “simple” solution that works for them—so they assume that it will work for me. They want to help me, to educate me, to enlighten me, in ALL CAPS. Why would I give my kid a Zyprexa when I could have him on a gluten-free diet instead? (Zyprexa is a nasty drug, by the way. I’m not even going to attempt to argue otherwise. But sometimes there are worse evils).

I’ve found H.L. Mencken’s oft-quoted bon mot to be more indicative of my actual experience with my own son:  “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.

In too many cases, that “well-known” solution continues to be mother-blame. I recently posted a portion of a tragic email I received from a desperate mother in Colorado. This is some of what she wrote (reprinted with her permission and in her exact words):
My 9 year old son has a mood disorder with severe anger problems and after 3 hospitalizations for hurting himself and other people, being kicked out of schools, after school programs and summer programs, I finally asked social services for help. Social services placed him in a residential facility, but in order for that to happen; I had to give up partial parental rights. Meetings were set up with social services, GAL, residential therapist and me to come up with a safety plan for my son to return home. After my son failed the first step in the safety plan, the group still pushed him to come home, but I denied him to return home for safety reasons.

Within a few months I received paperwork in the mail that the GAL placed a motion for me to lose my parental rights stating that I was an unfit parent and that I abandoned and neglected my son. The GAL felt that my son was institutionalized and he needed a loving home for him to get better. The court dd side with the GAL and my parental rights were taken and so was my son. It has been 6 months since I’ve seen or talked to him; my family is able to see him, but I am not allowed to and social services are holding all my gifts, letters and cards until he is stable. A foster family did come along, but within 4 weeks, they told social services that he will not work out for them because of him being unsafe. I feel that I am being abused by the system and being punished for advocating for my mentally ill son. I feel that I am not the only mother going through this.
Most people had the same reaction I did to this story—horror and sadness for the mother. But one sincere and well-meaning gentleman had to make the point—again and again—that the state could not possibly take this woman’s child from her unless she was an unfit mother. Which meant that she was probably a single mother. Because everybody knows that single mothers are the cause of boys’ mental illness. Etc.

The thing is, this mom’s story does NOT imply in any way that she was a bad mother—in fact, her attempts to get help for her son in the face of overwhelming odds show that she is a good mother. It’s the system, to my mind, that is at fault here. Why would the state terminate her parental rights? Why would they try to place her child in foster care, rather than working with her and providing access to resources?

Why indeed. I encourage everyone who does not realize how common this mom’s heartbreaking story is to become acquainted with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Here is what the Bazelon Center has to say on the subject of relinquishing custody
Parents forced to make this devastating choice are victims of an irrational and wholly inadequate system of insurance coverage. Employer-based health insurance may cover outpatient therapy and acute hospital care, but the intensive community-based services (such as wraparound services) required by many children with serious disorders are typically beyond the reach of private insurance. As a consequence, working families who cannot pay out of pocket for such services must forego essential care for their child, often with dire consequences, or relinquish custody to the state so that the child will become eligible for public insurance, typically Medicaid. 
Parents are asked to give up their rights because the state wants the money that attaches to a child who has mental illness. There it is. That answer is not as simple as blaming the mother. But it makes a whole lot more sense, if you stop and think about it before hitting “post.”

And that’s what I’m asking here, troll-folks. Let’s all stop to think, just for a minute, before making a potentially hateful and hurtful comment about an issue that might be more complex than it appears at first glance.  Apology accepted. 

P.S. The "clever" title is not my own--the inimitable Xeni Jardin from BoingBoing tweeted it a while back. Loosely translated, it means "don't let the troll bastards get you down." Words to live by.


susan said...

OH this is so fitting.. love it! Liza I sent yo have been facing u a message on your FB.. but I am not on your friends list so it is in your "other" folder. This is my point I have been facing.. now with my son back in our custody we do not have Medicaid.. and possibly could lose our intensive in home. I wish we lived closer and could have coffee and talk. Just know there is a family on the east coast bearing the same burden.. such a sad injustice (the system) for our future generation.

Susan said...

OOps sorry for the typos..

Marlowefranklin said...

Liza, thank you for your post! I found a 'troll' on a friend's blog who had 2 internet routers and had assumed the identity of 7 different people on the blog. Multiple personalities? Maybe. However, studies have shown these types of issues can actually sway public opinion regarding a topic! Can they really brainwash the unknowing?! Kind of like subliminal messages I guess.

Cheap Soccer Jerseys said...

This is very clever! I dislike "trolls", too!

Amy said...

Why are you so critical and rude about other people trying to give you advice and help you? What do you expect when all you do is constantly blog about all your problems? Any logical or rational person, which you clearly are not, tries to find solutions to problems rather than just complaining about them and feeling bad for themselves. I have been diagnosed with a mental illness and I would be absolutely horrified if my mother made everything public like you have. Ironic that you are quite the troll yourself.

Susan F said...

Am I missing something here, or is Amy's comment exactly word for word the kind of "you" comment we've all sort of agreed not to post?