You can’t shame this scarred-up depressive

Last September I reviewed a book from a writer called Michael R. Brown, aka fuguewriter, aka writerspleasure. We knew each other beforehand, did not much care for each other, and in the review you can see why I discussed the book and that I did my best to be evenhanded. A person who has experienced Brown online left me a comment in May, I responded, and a month later Brown became aware of it.

When I saw I had a comment from him, I sighed, figuring it would be more of his strange evasions (the man runs his online life like he is Jigsaw and we must all struggle to decipher the clues he lays out about himself – it is tiresome). I expected to be called a liar, which he calls me with pneumatic regularity when I relate any of my experiences with him online. I expected to read and read and read as he postulated on this, that, and the other as he insulted me, insisted his book was misunderstood and assumed the posture of a man so far above me that he could barely deign to write thousands of words to put me in my place but just had to because of his innate largesse. He has to explain things to me because, you know, I am so dumb.

However, I did not expect him to demean me because I suffer from mental and physical illnesses. Not even from him did I expect such bullshit. These are some of the things he had to say here and at an online snark community where he continued to show his ass.

He demeaned this site and all sites that discuss books as snark sites. He met me on a snark site in 2007 and as a result thinks I sit on snark sites on LiveJournal and do nothing but discuss him and men like him and that my site is nothing more but an extension of the same.   Why he has this opinion is something only he can explain, but he can’t explain it here because we finally banned him because he was insulting other commenters, and because why give him another forum when I don’t have to? But because he met me in a site devoted to mocking bad behavior, he has the idea that all I do all day long is snipe at people online. This is important to know because this picture he has of me has caused him to make a remarkable leap in his mind that since all I do is snark people, I must be dwelling in a state of negativity.

And here’s where it gets really stupid and really nasty. Brown asserts that the reason I have an auto-immune condition that affects my skin and joints and mental illness is because I have made myself ill because I do negative things:

Wake up, Anita. There’s a reason you’re as depressed and pain-ridden as you are. Get out of the negativity, before it’s all you can do.


Your negativity reinforces your depression and pain. Yes, yes, I’m so cruel and hateful for shaking you up about your negativity.

These are just two of the things he said. It is stupid because thoughts do not cause illness. Full stop. Let me state it again in all caps: THOUGHTS DO NOT CAUSE ILLNESS! It is ridiculous pseudoscience.

There are a couple of reasons what he said is nasty. It is victim-blaming to tell a sick person that he or she is responsible for their illness. This bit of pseudoscience is used in many ways to encourage people who are very ill to be positive, but there is not a bit of sound scientific research that proves people with sunny dispositions don’t get sick  or recover better when they do get sick than morose people. It is also nasty because it is predicated on Brown’s very shaky understanding of who I am and what I do. I spend the bulk of my time reading and writing about books. There is nothing inherently negative about discussing books.

But it is mostly nasty because my illnesses had nothing to do with the topics at hand: Brown’s book and his questionable behaviors online. He invoked it to shame me and worse, he cloaked his need to shame me in some really hilarious concern trolling.

He called my husband an enabler for not doing the right thing and intervening and, presumably, removing me from the internet:

Anita’s compounding her very real life-difficulties with submersion in pervasive Internet negativity, confabulation, etc. You’d do better to assist than enable, but I’m not surprised you’re enmeshed as well.

My very real life-difficulties? Of course he doesn’t mean when fatuous asshats interrupt my day with such nonsense but it is, in fact, a difficulty I face with Brown.  But it didn’t stop there. Before he got banned from sf_drama for TOS violations over at LiveJournal, Brown shifted his “concern” focus away from my physical health to my mental health and used deliberately loaded language to create an unsettling conclusion, or it would have been unsettling if anyone believed a word this man has to say:

let me tell you something, right from me to you: my pointing out her self-harming made her, her husband, and you SCREAM with discomfort is my favorite thing in this whole exercise. it really is. because it tells me i hit a nerve, and the only way things get better with stubborn mutually-enabling negativizers like you’all is going against your defense mechanisms, over and over and over. and i’m the one to do it. and in this, if you detect some arrogant pride, you’re right on the mark. i dare because i can, and because i’m right. and none of the rest of you gives a rat’s ass about it.

Emphasis mine. Of course, those who read his long comments about me in the review entry might understand he means I am harming myself by making myself sick with all this negativity. Really, “self-harm” is synonymous with “self-injury” and I have no doubt that was his point. I have so much empathy for those who self-harm but I am not one of them. Brown’s filter for mental illness is so deranged that he likely thought trying to make me sound like a cutter would reduce me in the eyes of others as so mentally fragile steps must be taken asap to secure my well-being. Then he goes on to imply, in the most self-important concern trolling ever, that my friends online and my husband are only defending me because they are complicit in my self-harm and that he is the only person who truly cares about my well-being.

Lovely, isn’t it.

I am writing this entry for a number of reasons. One is that I want this to stand so that if anyone ever Googles this fine specimen of humanity, they will see this entry and know that Brown is so low that he will invoke a foe’s physical and mental health in an attempt to bring focus off of his own nauseating behavior and give his own bad motives a sheen of “concern.”

I want him shamed. Michael R. Brown is only one of millions of people online who do this sort of thing. They do it because it’s easy. They do it because the internet has made everyone a goddamn expert.  Despite the fact that science disproves it, many people think they are responsible for the brain chemistry they are born with. Despite the fact that we know full well the limitations of our bodies, we have strangers telling us that we are our own limitation.   We have strangers giving us advice that could harm us and are offended when we politely refuse because we know our capabilities and the science behind our illnesses.  People accuse us of  being “negative” when we refuse the latest snail oil supplement or refuse to endorse the power of positive thinking. We have people who use sickness to make us less than human in something as petty as an online argument. And it’s bullshit. I can’t make an example out of every person who does this sort of thing maliciously but I sure can make an example of the one who did it to me.

People who are well physically and mentally do not understand the shame that comes from being sick. It is bad enough to be covered in scars, as I am. It is bad enough to creak when you walk – if you can walk. It is bad enough to see parts of your life drilling down into a smaller and smaller focus until you know that things will never be the same. A long walk, even with sunscreen, could make my next Sweet’s Syndrome flare-up worse, meaning more time on drugs that make me sick and anxious, more scars so that strangers stare at me. Little things like taking an evening walk with my husband have all kinds of hidden dangers beyond the sun. If I get scratched by a branch, if a happy dog leaps up on me and a claw scrapes my skin, if I encounter something I am allergic to, I could develop an outbreak of plaques on my arms. My last flare up also involved my joints, so now I am in interminable testing to see what else is happening to me. Some mornings I feel like I need a cane but I work through it. One day there will be no working through it, I fear.

My brain has been messy since the day I was born. I have been diagnosed and misdiagnosed but the best way to describe my condition is cyclical depression. I just finished with a bout. When it happens my days are dark and now you know why I may go several weeks between discussions. Trying to manage my atypical brain has caused me to become an addict, an alcoholic, and nearly cost me my life when a misdiagnosis landed me in a mental hospital when prescription drugs made me psychotic. I am sober now, but I have zero control over what happens to my brain.  Even prescription drugs only go so far with my brain chemistry. I could fall into a depression at Disneyland (and probably would, actually). I could fall into one reading my favorite book. I could fall into one cuddling kittens. My brain and what it does is beyond me simply thinking happy thoughts.

So now you know this about me. So let me tell you what these things mean, in the hard, cold, day-to-day world. They mean people look at my arms and hands because I have purple, circular scars left from the plaques. They fade a bit over time but they never disappear and the faded ones become flanked by new, livid discolorations from time to time. I feel strange that in the blistering heat of Texas I wear long sleeves. I feel out of place a lot. I worry a lot about what is happening to my joints and from time to time, I am utterly disgusted with myself. I was once a pretty girl. I am now scarred, pale, often bloated from steroids. Sometimes I feel like my confidence is sapped and I feel ashamed to be in this body. Then sometimes I feel fine, like the world and I will be okay.

My mental illness has caused me more shame than anything else because my physical issues are only hard on me. My brain makes things hard for others, like my husband. I have self-medicated when I knew it was counter-productive. I have said and done things in the course of trying to make a dark time end that I cringe when I remember it all. To be unable to regulate my emotions makes me feel ashamed because it deprives me of being able to do that which others do effortlessly. I cannot eat properly, sleep becomes impossible, even showering seems beyond me. The shame that comes from not even knowing if one has the physical and emotional resources to engage in the most basic elements of self-care, like eating and showering, humbles you and diminishes you. It also makes me full of dread because many sunny days are clouded by the fact that I know a dark day will come again. It’s hard. But again, I work through it. Some days are horrible. Some days are wonderful.

I explain these things about me so that there can be no mistake in anyone’s mind that my body or my head can be used against me.  That which I was open about in other places I am being open about here.  Putting things down into words of my own hopefully will make it clear though I feel shame from time to time, I really don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of.

So now that you know that I am sick mentally and physically and how it affects me, ask yourselves this: What the fuck does any of this have to do with me running a book blog?


The answer is: Not a fucking thing.

The fact is this: Michael R. Brown tried to shame me for being ill. He can’t. It’s not just that his initial premise that I spend my entire day in negativity is wrong. It’s not because I know he is a choad for whom I have zero respect. It’s not any of that.

It’s that I knew immediately what he was trying to do.  One of the benefits of having gray hair is that I finally know when a loser is throwing shit with both hands to see what will stick because he can’t win an argument any other way. That is what Brown was doing. He was trying to distract me into discussing my health with him, he was using my health to distract from his essential cravenness as a human being, and he was trying to shame me by dragging my health into a discussion of a book review.

If you suffer from any sort of illness, never permit anyone to do this. When it happens, recognize it for what it is: an attempt to distract and an attempt to shame you.  If you can confront, do it, but if you can’t confront, do not accept this attempt to diminish you.  Reject it and the mentality behind it.  Sick people often internalize the near-constant onslaught of bullshit that comes their way. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that when anyone brings your health into a situation where it has no place, they are misguided at best (like most family members), or at worst they are foul and cruel.  Reject any idea other than that you deserve respect at all times.  Even if you can’t speak out, just knowing it helps.

This has been an interesting couple of days. Brown has the honor of being the first person banned here, and after this entry and responding to any replies anyone has about him or this whole incident, I am going to assume he doesn’t exist because I never plan to read another word he writes. Much contrary to Brown’s opinion of my life and how I spend my time, I am mostly healthy, spend my days reading books and have here and other places built a network of people who love books, love cats, and like me. I like them, too. I have a pretty positive life, peopled with interesting bibliophiles and beautiful freaks of all description. To spend another moment on this topic deprives me of real joy.

Oh, screw that treacly ending I had up there.  Ending righteous anger with protestations that “Hey, I’m HAPPY and having ever so much fun!” is a rhetorical device that still dies hard.  Instead, let’s conclude this with the lovely tale of the time Sarah Proud and Tall and Gloria Vanderbilt vanquished the proto-Randian, as it were.

Then let us try to go as long without mentioning the name of Michael R. Brown as we do Ayn Rand and it really will be like the time when the evil queen died and all the forest creatures frolicked and danced in the meadow.

ETA on 6/2/14:  I was rereading old entries and wanted to amend this entry.  When Brown and I butted heads, his comments about my illness came three months after one of the worst Sweet’s outbreaks I had ever had.  But interestingly I have not had a flare-up since.  Still have to keep myself covered up if I am going to be out in the sun for any amount of time, and my arms are still pretty mottled, but mostly my health has been excellent.  The joint issues that accompanied outbreaks are negligible now.

I still suffer from the cyclical depression and I’ve dealt with it for so long it’s not really a crisis.  I feel it coming, I try to take steps to simplify life at Chez Oddbooks so that we sail smoothly through rough seas.

I changed nothing in my life in order to achieve this physical health.  It’s just sometimes that life is like this.  Also autoimmune illnesses are like this. You spend a few years covered in plaques and your joints are a misery and then it stops.  But I wanted to edit this in the event anyone might think I am still suffering the same level of illness I did when I wrote this entry.  I am knocking on wood as soon as I am finished with this edit.

I also noted the “snail oil” error.  I think it sounds funny and am leaving it that way. :)

Published in: Nothing to do with odd books | on June 13th, 2011 |
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49 Responses to “You can’t shame this scarred-up depressive”

  1. On June 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm, Hank the Cowdog said:

    I’m sorry this happened. I read some of the reviews on your other site, the one about “normal” books, and I always thought you discussed your illness with grace and dignity. I hope you feel well enough to write some more reviews very soon!

    • On June 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm, anitadalton said:

      Oh wow, you read IRE discussions? Yeah, I really did talk about my brain chemistry on that site. I don’t know if anyone can ever know that they behave with grace or dignity but it’s good to know I seem that way.

      New review, possible more, this week! Thanks for the kind words, Hank.

  2. On June 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm, AltoidsAddict said:

    “I must have hit a nerve” is a time-honored refuge of narcissistic jerks who have been called out on their behavior but are not healthy enough themselves to apologize for their behavior and become better people. Someone getting angry at an offensive criticism is displaying a valid and healthy response. Anger is not a validation of a criticism; it is usually a rejection of prejudice that only claims to be a criticism. Only an idiot or a highly dysfunctional and self-centered person believes anger is a desired or positive response.

    When I teach logical fallacies and bad argumentation in college, I frequently tell my students that the Internet is where fallacies go to breed and sprout wings. “I must have hit a nerve” is something my students bring up often and use as examples to show when someone has no valid response left.

    • On June 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm, anitadalton said:

      “I must have hit a nerve” is a time-honored refuge of narcissistic jerks who have been called out on their behavior but are not healthy enough themselves to apologize for their behavior and become better people.

      You win all the win in Win-Town for this comment.

      I think I was so surprised he sunk so low I didn’t consider the sheer rhetorical failure of his response.

  3. On June 13, 2011 at 7:09 pm, Book Girl said:

    This is an EXCELLENT post. People who behave like this person need to be dragged into the light and shown for the loathsome creatures they are.

    • On June 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm, anitadalton said:

      Thank you. I have no illusions that this will change anything but I sure would be happy if this appears in the Google ranks for his name.

  4. On June 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm, tatjna said:

    Your reviews are interesting, balanced and enjoyable. His tirades are tl;dr, full of self-importance and not as clever as he seems to think they are.

    Nuff said.

    • On June 14, 2011 at 12:43 am, anitadalton said:

      Thanks, tatjna. :) Ultimately, I just want to discuss books and enjoy a Michael R. Brown-free online life. I hope this is the end of him popping up.

  5. This is going in my private mental file as an example of How To Be Dignified In A Firezone- something I am terrible at. So much grace & even humour in the face of extreme provacation *applauds*

    • On June 14, 2011 at 12:46 am, anitadalton said:

      I’ve said this to a couple of other people in other venues, but the only reason I more or less kept my wits about me was because I have known this man since 2007 and more or less expect the worst from him every time he shows up. Had he been a stranger to me, I’m not sure how I would have reacted but him? He never brings anything good to the table and as a result, had he not crossed the line this time, I would have just sighed, waited for him to type himself out, and leave.

      But I appreciate your praise and in the end, if I get a few more readers out of this mess, then it’s all to the good.

  6. I’m a woman of color going for a major and English, diagnosed with generalized anxiety and a suspicion of ADHD.

    This entry means so much to me. I’ve been diminished by so many of my peers for my mental condition, to the point that I’ve been told ‘not to bother with college’.

    And why shouldn’t I? I learned English in three months. Could write it in four months. Writing is my passion, and to see people like Brown, who can’t write worth a damn (because obfuscating language means you failed as a writer) trying to invalidate his well-deserved review over your health speaks volumes of what an ignorant, hateful person he is.

    Self-aggrandizing idiots like Brown need to be called out for what they are. I’ve wasted too many years giving time and thoughts over idiots like these in the field and life in general.

    • I’ve been dismissed by so many of my peers*

    • On June 14, 2011 at 10:22 am, anitadalton said:

      There is a school of thought that neurodiversity, the difference of mind found in people with bipolar, depression, who sit on the autism spectrum, among other conditions, represents a natural selection. A positive natural selection. In this theory, it is the neurodiverse, with history to show the actual reasoning behind it, who have shaped the world in terms of scientific development and in all fields of the arts. The list of those with mental illness or disorders that made them neurodiverse who revolutionized the world of science and the world of arts is staggering.

      Therefore it is bizarre and sickening that your anxiety and potential ADHD is seen as a bar to being an excellent English student. Admittedly I am probably quite a bit older than you but I recall my college English classes being a place wherein meandering conversations taught us Shakespeare, O’Connor, the confessional poets (especially the confessional poets). If you have ADHD, your school must give your condition consideration in some respects and it doesn’t seem to be that hard to administer such access programs. I hope your school stops this behavior because if they have any sense, they will recognize that is is the neurodiverse with drive, women and men exactly like you, who created almost all of the literature they want to teach you. If they don’t, godspeed getting out of there and into a place where you are welcomed.

      And please don’t let the fact that a bigot like Brown, who has a published book yet cannot write, get you down. The press that published him is owned by him or is so closely associated with him that the difference is negligible. Anyone can get a book deal if they are their own editor. No slam on the self-published, I see the pros of doing it that way. But that dreadful book is available only because Brown’s press published it.

      Thanks for reading here and I fervently hope your academic life improves. Much love to you, Lulu and just remember – even if you cannot confront (because in situations like yours, it’s hard to know when not to push and when to push harder), you know the truth about your mind and your will. Do not ever get beaten down by the Browns of this world.

  7. I find it odd that Brown has taken such an intensely personal interest in a quest to “save” you. It all seems very Messianic and stalkerish, so be careful.

    If you write anything that has an audience of over 10 people, odds are that you will agitate at least one goofball into anti-social behavior. I had someone sending me death-threats at my site simply because they had a difficult time discerning basic irony. Don’t let them steal your joy!

    • On June 14, 2011 at 10:50 am, anitadalton said:

      He stole nothing but time. And since he got himself banned, once this entry dies off, he can’t steal any more of it. I am still stunned we had to ban him. Of all the strange people and it was some weenie Randian who fancies himself a Renaissance Man who finally made us pull the trigger. I guess annoying trumps scary for me. A marine threatened to kill me and we worked that out in a couple of e-mail exchanges. I had a man writing a book about his dog’s penis send me sample chapters. I wonder what happened to him because I haven’t heard from him in months. But the guy who thinks his grandpa ate his sister in a Satanic ritual is still around. I talk to him every few weeks. The strange mind is my joy and I still got plenty of it.

      But given your experience in this realm, I do I take your perspective seriously, Jeffrey. I am the first to admit my deep interest often can diminish my fear instinct. I will be careful in the event Brown is approaching this via some sort of Messianic need to save me, but mostly I think he wanted to look like he cared when he really loathes me and overdid it in his usual purple and overwrought prose. But there was something a bit different about his approach this time. Never hurts to be aware.

  8. On June 14, 2011 at 10:58 am, Holly Embry said:

    This right here? This is why I had to hunt you down and friend you on that journal site I frequent sometimes.

    I have been splained (ablesplained?) regularly since my depression diagnosis and, more recently, my back and spine trouble. “I read Norman Vincent Peale/Zig Ziglar/The Secret and the problem is that you’re just too negative and making yourself sick!” UGH. I can’t tell you how tired I am of Happy Thought Theory being referred to like it’s an entire branch of medicine unto itself.

    I’m glad you and Mr. Odd banned Brown from commenting, and I agree that losing the argument (discussion? From what I could tell, I’m pretty sure he was the only one losing his shit in the comments) meant that he had to (HAD TO!) go for the lowest blow he possibly could. And then the creeptastic “I’m the only one that REALLY cares about you” troll made me gag and shudder at the same time. As Jeffrey Sconce above me said, be careful.

    Thank you so, so much for writing this.

    • On June 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm, anitadalton said:

      Hey, I saw you added me over there and added you back. New friends! Yay!

      I have a visceral hatred of this sort of pseudoscience that tells us that if we wish hard enough or smile long enough, we will be eternally lucky and never be sick. From The Secret to Prosperity Theology, the march of really bad thinking goes on and on.

      I had taken all of this with a light heart (except for the part about shaming the shit out of him – that I was very serious about) but I discussed Jeffrey Sconce’s response with my husband and was surprised by his reaction. He was deeply disturbed by the things Brown had said and agreed with Jeffrey. I had no idea. I guess I’ve known this dreadful man online long enough that I think the depth of how creepy this was didn’t sink in.

      But there is something to it, his vociferous need to continue to harangue me, that whole thing about how he was the only one who cared enough to save me from myself, his attempts to evade his ban over here by using a proxy server. I don’t know. It guess it never hurts to be aware of things but ultimately I still sort of think he is more a blowhard with zero self-awareness than anything to be scared of.

      Fingers crossed.

      • On June 15, 2011 at 7:46 am, Holly Embry said:

        Yay LJ! Fair warning, I lurk like nobody’s business. But if I can offer insight rather than just absorbing insights from people who can say it better than me, I will speak up. :)

        I tend to take people far too seriously on the net, which probably explains my not-too-good gut feeling about Brown. That combined with the pertinent snippets of his book (I totally had the same feelings about Mira’s reactions), the whole thing just took on a grody life of its own for me. I’ve also had off-net experiences with men who think they know what’s better for me than I know for myself, both healthwise and lovewise (“We’ll be happy together forever if you’d just quit being such a bitch and let me take care of you!” GROSS). I’m probably oversensitive on the subject by this point.

        Sorry he showed up on your LJ, though I’m glad you gave him a little time to run around with his pants off and quell any sympathy I might have hypothetically had.

        • On June 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm, anitadalton said:

          Half my list lurk, so no worries.

          I suspect I am undersensitive to these issues but I am slowly coming around to the idea that Brown may be far more demented than I initially thought.

          He’s currently retweeting comments I made about him in Twitter. I blocked him but he is still responding to me directly. I don’t know. This level of obsession is concerning and I recommend at this point that people just never interact with him in the first place. He’s very hard to get rid of and is a large waste of time.

  9. I said it over on sf_drama and I’ll say it again: Thanks for that review. I too have brain chemistry that doesn’t work in my favour, and I encountered the whole dust-up during a particularly low point of a depressive episode.

    I really admire your ability to be honest and out there about your illnesses. If more people were like you, maybe people like me would have the strength to be open about it too. It’s taken me nearly a decade since my initial crash and diagnosis to be able to say things like, “no, I can’t just snap out of it,” and “positive thoughts are nice and all, but I don’t seem to have any right now, and you’re making it worse by insisting that there’s something wrong with me for not being able to conjure any.”

    Also, Brown is a douche whose shift key is for some reason buried in his posterior—which I knew already from LJ—but his ableism and asshaberdashery towards a very reasonable critique of his shitty novel is a whole new low.

    • On June 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm, anitadalton said:

      I wish I understood why so many people have decided to swallow this particular flavor of koolaid. Yes, yes, we can all wish away the depression if only we would smile more, if only we would think happy thoughts, it would all go away. What perversity we must have in our hearts to reject such an obvious and easy solution! We must just like being sad.

      And god help those like me who have depression come and go. “You were fine last week! Why can’t you just be like that again?” And when I cannot return to my previously normal state on a dime, again it is proof of an innate perversity wherein I just choose to be depressed.

      It’s all so tiresome and I am so tired of people engaging in this idiocy.

      I’m lucky. I really do have nothing to lose. I don’t have a job that would pearl clutch if they knew I had been in a mental ward. I have a mother who is reasonably understanding these days of my mental state. A spouse who understands very well how hard I try and how easily these things come and go. No kids. It’s easy for me to fly my mental illness flag. It would be very nice one day if everyone can be honest without consequence.

  10. Dear Anita – thanks ever so for the link.

    As for Mr Brown, he does sound like an unpleasant chap, but then I’d never trust anyone who seems to be unable to capitalize the beginning of his sentences (with the sole exception of that nice mr cummings, of course).

    Would you like me to send him one of my special cakes with the ipecac icing?


    • On June 15, 2011 at 2:11 am, anitadalton said:

      Oh Sarah, you are welcome for the link.

      Are you sure you don’t know Brown? He spoke in his dreadful book of his near-stalking of Ayn Rand’s home. I cannot help but think your path may have crossed with his.

      Given that I already know what can come out of his mouth, perhaps one of your cakes iced in dulcolax would be more appropriate. Though what comes out that end will likely be indistinguishable from his oral spew.

      You are very thoughtful.

  11. I salute you.

    Really noble post.

  12. Okay, this? This is AWESOME. Nothing more needs to be said.

    • On June 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm, anitadalton said:

      Thanks, Michy! I can’t believe my interactions with a lunatic Randian inspired an almost 400 comment sf_d post. I am but an unassuming odd book lover. How did it ever come to this?

  13. Michael R. Brown is a troll of the highest order. I, myself, have had my own 100+ tweet discussion with him and I can assure you I did my best to make sure there was coherence and logic to the debate, but there was none. He even admitted to me that he was a psycho and I took a snapshot of it and put it on my blog. Also, he will NOT release evidence of his non-fiction having been reviewed at an above-peer level, as he claims. It is true that he pretends to be a misunderstood genius that you are ignorant if you don’t understand.

    And he blocked me on twitter. It is true. Just ask me if you would like all of the snapshots from our discussion. But I agree with this and am very sorry that you had to deal with him too.

    • On June 17, 2011 at 9:18 am, anitadalton said:

      (Oops, sorry about that – I screwed up and initially didn’t reply in thread…)

      OMG, you got him to ban you? How? Please share with the rest of us how you got this man to stop! His IP address tried repeatedly to leave comments despite the ban. He then created an alter-ego to white night him using a proxy. He crept around my LJ until I banned him, he has confronted people who showed me support in their journals and now he is being a creepy asshole on Twitter. Even after I blocked him he keeps responding to me. I had to change my e-mail notifications. I cannot tell you how much I want this strange, obsessive man to stop caring about what I have to say.

      If you look over on the comments on the review that spawned this godless endeavor, you will note he posted the by-now-infamous Harper’s two page spread. It is in near-icon form and one would have to subscribe to Harper’s to see the thing in whole, readable form. So I still don’t know if the Harper’s is a review, an ad… And frankly I don’t care. There will always be some weirdo somewhere who will find merit in his work, advanced degree be damned. He’s an untalented man, and in his shriveled little heart, he knows it. No genius acts this way unless there is a strong sense of his or her own inferiority. Except maybe H.G. Wells, whom Brown sort of reminds me of, temperament-wise.

      Do you think he really thinks he thinks he is a psychopath or was he just having a tantrum and breast-beating for show?

      I don’t need to see the screenshots but save them. He’s such a strange, strange man that one never knows when it may come in handy.

      Thanks for the support. I am actually quite shocked at the number of people Brown has gone too far with online.

      • I just gave him criticisms on his writing, and attempted to tell him about how important brevity is. Also, I sent him links to my own writing to show him how it’s done. He is very reactionary and believes that all criticism of his work is an insult to his character. I would recommend just asking where his above-peer reviews are for his book. They may or may not exist, but you sure won’t get the info out of him. I think he was just trying to breast-beat when he said he was a psycho but it was so hastily done on his part it suggests a lack of thought-screening. To me, he shows sociopathic tendencies, but then again I am no psychologist, just a student.

        I actually identify with him quite a bit. He’s a writer who apparently hates disinformation. All I was trying to do is tell him that he’s not going to listen to anybody if he insults them. My whole tangent with him started with a twitter comment where I made a reference to Ayn Rand, and then had the nerve to call me a “troll,” an “internet b*llshitter,” a “negativist,” and a “non-writer” throughout our discussions which went on for a couple of days. I also don’t think he understands Helena Blavatsky much. My original comment was about Blavatsky and his tweets suggested a lack of information about what he was talking about. LOL to the H.G. Wells allusion.

        I don’t know if you will be rid of him because I know the type and they tend to stick around for a long time. My guess is that he will be reading over your comments for a long time, and even this one. But yeah, he is definitely an awful hack-writer. I think he fancies himself a Marcello-Italian like from La Dolce Vita. Or some blogger who will somehow tear a hole straight through the worlds own idea of itself from within 140-characters, but he indeed doesn’t know how to edit. I’ve read everything of his I could find for free on the internet.

        • On June 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm, anitadalton said:

          Oh, okay. He was just exaggerating. Interestingly, I am reading Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test at the moment and though he and all the psychiatrists mentioned in the book warn against it, I cannot help but apply the criteria to our mutual friend. But you can also apply the criteria to Mother Teresa with surprising results, but it’s all interesting in reference to his declaration to you. I don’t think he’s a psychopath, however, it must be said.

          By the way, he tried to evade the ban by commenting to either you or me, certainly in reference to your comment. It was cute – he smugly took Mr Oddbooks to task for failing to block him and offered his help in creating an effective ban, unaware that just because he couldn’t see the ban screen he still wasn’t going to be able to post.

          Banning him goes against my sense of fair-play because he should have the right to respond to comments about him but he’s proven himself incapable of behaving. Because you are correct – my interaction with him shows a complete inability to accept any criticism or even any idea contrary to his own.

          What in the everloving hell is a “negativist?” Rhetorical question but the word is annoying.

          I don’t relate to him at all. I don’t enjoy arguing and I certainly don’t feel the need to argue every point to death, which is what must happen if one is going to engage with Brown. I also do not find he is searching to eliminate disinformation. He, in my experience, mainly attempts to cloud issues of truth and lie until one either has to agree with him to achieve resolution or eschew him entirely.

          Though I wish he would go away, it largely doesn’t matter if he doesn’t. If he finds a way to evade my ban, he won’t for long. He’s largely impotent. Even if he could edit, there is no way he could write a compelling narrative. He doesn’t have the necessary introspection to write fiction or even a memoir well. He would be pitiful were he not so offensive.

      • Sorry, just to add one more thing. He reminds me of Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces.

  14. How odd that someone who you have had conflicts with in the past would send you a book for review. He must seek conflict again and again in his daily life.

    I do believe mental health has some influence on physical health, although to say that it is entirely the cause of ill physical health is ridiculous (although maybe he didn’t say that exactly–I skimmed this entry).

    My mental health sometimes causes me physical pain, like today. Since I suffer from TMJ Disorder, stress and getting manic near bedtime causes me to wake up in horrible headache-like pain that usually lasts throughout the day. Although unlike stress, the mania is due to a psychological condition rather than my thoughts and the external world.

    • To clarify: I meant more than mental’s health influence over physical health considering that’s something we can’t control. I was commenting more about my belief that happy people are less likely to get sick than those who aren’t happy, but again, this is not the way things often work: happy people will get sick and sad people will remain perfectly healthy.

      • On June 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm, anitadalton said:

        I will be so happy when Brown is no longer on my radar. As you put it in your first comment, he really does love conflict. But he sent the book to me because he wanted to reward me for not being as much of an idiot as he initially judged me. Isn’t that sweet? You’ve seen what I do when a book seems dishonest or just bad to the core – the Tao Lin discussion is an excellent example. I gave Brown a very easy discussion and restrained myself because I knew him. Had that book come to me from a stranger I would have been far harsher.

        No worries. I understood you well, Bradley. And as a depressive, I very well get how depression can cause a lack of self-care that can lead to illness. I’ve experienced it myself. No sleep, eating crap, no exercise, and before long, you feel sick even if you aren’t. But getting run down or a cold because one is depressed and failing to engage in proper self-care is a far different mindset than the one I am taking Brown to task over. He made some dreadful presumptions about my life and engaged in a near-Olympic level of creepiness using pseudoscience regarding something that is none of his business.

        There really is no equivocation that needs to be engaged in when discussing his attitudes. You’re a (reasonably) normal person who, when discussing the idea of mental attitude affecting health, can be assumed to have no ulterior motives. The difference between what you are saying and what he was trying to accomplish could not be more stark. It was ableism wrapped in pseudoscience wrapped in very unsettling concern trolling. He’s a dreadful human being.

        I too have TMJ. I also have a sleep disorder – delayed sleep phase syndrome – and sleep is filled with tension. My inner clock dictates a schedule that makes normal life pretty much impossible and the tension it creates is difficult to manage. I had to get a mouth guard made because I clenched my way into jaw misalignment. I actually am now beginning to wonder how much a generic sleep disorder that went undiagnosed for too long has affected me, health and mental-wise. I did a sleep study and have a plan to try to correct it and the relief is palpable. No sleep, fear of sleep, lack of sleep – it’s literally maddening.

        May we all sleep well tonight and may our psychological conditions be easier dealt with. :)

        • I think it might have more to do with lack of caring for yourself due to depression. I think there’s a link between emotional state and susceptibility to illness, at least through my experience.

          I just looked up Delayed Sleep Disorder and it sounds a bit like me, except for the part about falling asleep the same time every night. My random sleeping schedule gives me trouble as because of society’s norm. I often stay up all night and go to sleep early afternoon. I guess it’s because I have bipolar disorder, so I get manic and that gives me insomnia. I actually sleep better during the day. I worked a graveyard shift job for about a year and a half and I never slept better and I went to sleep at the same time every day. But it’s that’s a tough life.

          Also when I get really manic near bedtime, I often make the decision to skip sleep until the next night because being tired all day is preferable to TMJ pain. I’ve also lost the urge to sleep a bunch of times recently while getting obsessively involved with certain tasks. Lacking an urge to sleep is preferable to wanting to but making the decision to skip it to avoid pain. It’s easier for me to have a normal sleep schedule when I have something like a 9 to 5 job since I’ll go to sleep the same time every night. But if I have insomnia at night, I’ll just be tired the entire next day. It’s impossible to maintain a sleep schedule when I don’t have anything particular to wake up for at a specific time, so it’s extremely difficult to force myself to wake up at the same time each morning. I usually just end up turning off the alarm clock(s) and going back to sleep. I also always need to remember to feed myself during the day when I stay up all night and all day. This started happening to me fairly recently (I used to suffer insomnia and try to sleep rather than just stay awake) and I noticed the day after I stayed up all night and day (and ended up going to sleep at an “appropriate hour”), I would feel really weak. So eventually I realized it was because I wasn’t eating so I forced myself to eat. I guess I lose my appetite when I’m both tired and manic.

          I used to punch the walls in my sleep, but the jaw clenching started about 4 or 5 years ago. I guess that took over for the violence. I think the TMJ is because it seems like I have nightmares every time I sleep.

          • On June 19, 2011 at 9:12 pm, anitadalton said:

            Though I have the capacity to fall asleep between 3-5 am every morning, when I have a spell of depression, it screws it up to the point that I don’t sleep for what feels like days. I feel like I can’t control my limbs, my head is fuzzy and I cannot speak. When I did the sleep test last Wednesday, they also noticed that I never entered deep or REM sleep. That was interesting and troubling.

            I’ve been reading a lot about bipolar recently. I read that there is a field of thought that some bipolars experience mania as anxiety, spending the bulk of their time in a low lull or a high-functioning depression. That sounds like me. When I feel I can stomach a psychiatrist again I may discuss it with a doctor. Because if that is the case for me, it explains a lot of what happens with my sleep.

            But I have moments wherein I wonder what came first: the brain dysfunction or the sleep dysfunction. Sleep also screws up my eating patterns but in the other way. I find I overeat to combat fatigue – lots of sugars and simple carbs.

            Swing shift is indeed hard. I suspect my mother has delayed sleep phase syndrome because she infinitely preferred to work at nights and did so for at least a decade. While it was preferable to her sleep patterns, I also think it took a toll on her overall health.

            I am so sorry you experience such sleep dysfunction. I could talk about sleep and the lack of sleep and what causes both all day. I went through a phase there wherein I read book upon book about sleep, ending with DT Max’s book about fatal familial insomnia. It was sobering to read about the extremities of sleep gone wrong, but it was also strange to realize that science still really has no idea what sleep is. All they can do is theorize about what sleep does to the brain but the results of no sleep are universal, it seems.

            If you can ever do it, a sleep study might reveal some interesting things. Like me not going into REM. I was actually beginning to worry that I was developing Alzheimers because at times I simply lose the ability to think, especially remembering words. No REM would explain why my brain feels like it starts shutting down.

            The sleep study screwed up my schedule pretty badly and that night I fell asleep at 11:00. As I was drifting off, within minutes of going to bed, I realized, “I bet the bulk of people experience this – they just go to sleep at night.” It was a deliciously intoxicating feeling and sort of sad, too, because I knew it would not happen again soon. I think that is why I abused Ambien. It replicated that lovely feeling of blissfully and quietly slipping into sleep, with no thoughts other than that the world would be okay and waiting for me when I woke. I’ve read many accounts of people who ended up in the same addiction boat I did because it was such a relief to finally feel drowsy peace.

            Gah, I am so sorry to read all of this. Like the Ambien addiction, it is a boat I wish I was alone in.

            • I take a mood stabilizer. Before that, I would get depressed a lot. Now, it’s pretty rare, but the mania remains. It wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t for the TMJ and that I need to find a job pretty soon, and it will probably have to be a day job rather than a night job, but we’ll see. I always liked working the overnight shifts, but I found my nights off to be terribly lonely. I guess I wouldn’t have that problem if I had been living somewhere where nearly everyone wasn’t asleep during the early morning.

  15. Thanks for this post.

    I have depression which I am currently managing, but which was faily severe every few years before I found a doctor who knew what she was doing. I’ve also had a chronic illness which made me unable to work for 6 months.

    The WORST thing people can say is that it’s all our own fault, and that if we were just better people, nicer people, we wouldn’t be ill. It is so insidious, and it feeds into the sorts of delusions that depression gives us already.

    I found your blog through the drama with Brown, but I am now going to subscribe, because I like your writing. I bet I’m not the only one.

    • On June 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm, anitadalton said:

      It is so insidious, and it feeds into the sorts of delusions that depression gives us already.

      A million times this. People who don’t experience equate depression with being sad, and since they can recover from sadness within certain time frames, they tend to think mental illness should follow the same recovery arc. It’s understandable, but it’s tiresome nonetheless.

      Thanks for reading and for deciding to stick around! Brown and I have, I think, managed to find a way never to discuss this again, so hopefully it will be a calm, deeply odd but melodrama-free experience for you.

  16. On June 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm, DanteFontana said:

    I would never miss your blog because it sparkles with wit and the endless delight of its author in the world of reading and ideas. I wish you the very best in all of your efforts to stay healthy, and it makes me sad that someone saw fit to publicly deride you as he contributed to the degraded literary genre which writer and critic Paul Fussell has called the ABM, or Author’s Big Mistake.

    • On June 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm, anitadalton said:

      Oh, these were very nice words to read. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me this. I like my little mental playground and am so pleased others like it as well.

      Though Paul Fussell is not nearly odd enough from what I have read of his books (Class being my favorite), I like his books and am surprised I had not heard of the ABM. So I looked it up and found the essay, “Vanity in Review” and was thrilled to see my old bugbear H.G. Wells mentioned. I’ve brought his name up a couple of times as an interesting parallel to this strange mess I found myself in.

      “My dear H. G.,
      With your note in front of me
      it takes some effort to recall that
      you are not really the vain and
      abusive little man that its petulance
      would suggest…”

      Too funny!

      Thanks again for this kind comment.

  17. Thanks for this.

    A friend linked me here after I was tonight evicted because of my ‘negative energy’. So many of my personal issues were brought up, ones I try to be up front about but not dwell on, things I struggle with every day. I did my best to stand up for myself, but was dismissed as making excuses etc. If I’d read this before I may have had better phrases to use, but hopefully I will next time.

    I’m 25 and apparently that means that I am too young to have any idea about my own health and how to take care of myself, and I’m being childish if I refuse their misogynist flavour of help and assert boundaries both physical and verbal.

    Anyway, the event has understandably triggered anxiety, but reading this tonight is helping me put it in perspective. It’s not me that’s wrong.

    • On June 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm, anitadalton said:

      No, it is not your fault. More to the point, I am not even sure what “negative energy” is. A bad attitude? A trumped up new-age attempt to dismiss disliked people? Outside of living with someone whose mental illness threatens health or security, like living with a hoarder or a person in whom mental illness creates mental or physical violence, it’s hard to see how negativity or negative energy could ever be valid grounds for dismissing someone from a home. I do hope you have somewhere to go and a support network. The hell of depression and anxiety is that they are so isolating.

      It’s hard to stand up for yourself. I have always had an innate loudmouth and a capacity for debate so it’s easier for me to fight back than many in such situations. I’m glad you found some ideas here that may help you if this ever happens to you again.

      Misogynistic language when dealing with women with mental illness, along with the paternalism that comes with some of the burden of mental illness, never fails to make me angry (and oh lord, the patronizing language used against a justifiably angry person with mental illness is a nauseating experience in itself). The attempts to combine female biology with mental illness is also nonsense (no, it’s not my period, and no, when I argue my case defensively, I am not “hysterical”). I hate to tell you this but that probably won’t ever end. All we can do is be certain that we know ourselves and that the words of those who gathered just enough information about mental illness from Wikipedia to ape the language have no right to recommend anything in regard to our care or our daily lives. That you’ve already picked up on the misogyny that often comes with dealing with female mental illness is a good sign; it means you can tell bullshit when you hear it.

      It’s a fine line. I know my anxiety and depression have had an impact on my husband. It gets tiresome when I fall into the ditch and then have to climb back out. But he copes. The longer we stay together the easier it gets and among people who don’t have as much invested with you, dealing with the frailties that a neurodiverse person brings to the table can be hard. But “negative energy” is no sound reason to evict anyone. I am so sorry you are going through this. I hope the next time someone confronts you about things outside their expertise and your control, you have a better chance of stating your case.

      Self-knowledge is hard won and I hate that it takes things like this to enable us to become better advocates for ourselves. But every time we walk away from a situation like this wherein we know we have done our best to manage our illness and others who have no clue try to impose, it is one more notch in our pill cases. It becomes a little symbol of the experiences that will lead us to the place wherein our mental states when we are weak cannot be used against us when we are strong because we simply won’t permit it.

      I do hope everything works out for you and I am very glad there was some value for you in reading my experience. Please take care of yourself.

  18. I’ve known quite a few characters like your pal Michael, and they all seem to be cut from the same cloth — emotionally stunted, deeply wounded boy-men who’ve been kicked around quite a bit in their lives, who construct a heroic identity for themselves to compensate for their lack of self-worth. You can’t pound sense into these guys, since that actually fuels their self-conception — which was born from such abuse in the first place — and besides, any amount of self-awareness would cause their world to disintegrate, so they will fight it to the death. It makes sense that they gravitate towards Randian type philosophies, since I’m sure they’re a tremendous source of validation for small men who want to feel big.

    I used to get really wound up by this kind of person, but now I genuinely feel bad for them. It’s not hard to see the scared, damaged child behind the pompous bluster, and returning their hostility only appeases their heroic victim complex, so I generally just shine them on. Nothing short of professional treatment can help them, and there’s no healthy way to engage with them. The most that can be done, I guess, is what you’re doing, which is to shine a spotlight on them and their actions, and do what you can to make sure no one is deceived about their true nature. People like this usually defeat themselves merely by opening their mouths.

    I have to say, though, that I found his transparent post-ban attempts at sock puppetry amusing.

    Anyway, kudos, for your insightful post and for your classy response to the trollery — I don’t know how you manage to respond with such equanimity to the hostility that gets flung your way on this site, but I admire your thick hide.

    • On June 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm, anitadalton said:

      Thanks, Edward. Brown and I came to an uneasy truce wherein I agreed not to discuss this matter any longer, though I did say I was keeping both entries about him up (I hope he too stops talking about it but I have no means or inclination to monitor him and the agreement seemed sincere enough). So in the interests of honor, I can’t comment in depth but I can say that I have witnessed the same phenomenon at work with others who have had difficult lives when they were younger. Some pick Jesus, some pick Rand, some choose utter nihilism, but it seems the adoption of a dogma, a framework in which to view the world that makes the believer seem chosen, exalted, or just plain smarter than the rest of the world, can be a way of saving the ego.

      As I have mentioned other places, while I was pissed off that my mental and physical health were used in a conversation where they had no place and using such spurious logic, Brown is hardly the worst I have faced as a result of this site. My incoming links, from time to time, can be really unpleasant. Man, a professor in Kansas really hates how I write and wrote two entries explaining how I am an incompetent reviewer (he did have a point that I slide into passive voice a lot so I was able to walk away with that, though I suspect it is a habit that will never go away). I’ve had e-mails and comments from people who read like they may, in fact, be somewhere on the schizophrenia spectrum, generally the paranoid. I had a soldier stationed in the Middle East say he was going to kill me (he was angry and speaking rhetorically and when I pointed out that such words could land him in deep trouble should the recipient take him seriously, he apologized and I never heard from him again).

      But if I put it out there I gotta take it when it comes back at me. I state a critical opinion on hard topics and difficult books then it would be hypocritical to get upset if my own presence online generates critical feedback. And since I like different, whacked, strange and scary brains, I don’t mind interacting with the people who have those brains. It all falls apart for me when anyone attempts to use irrelevant personal information against me, as if being depressed or self-destructive or self-harming, were all three true, were an impediment to discussing strange books.

      But yeah, it’s the Internet. At least half the people reading in cyberspace are going to think I’m a fool. Why be too upset when that’s just the way of the world. :)

  19. As a psychology student, I can attest that this is really the kind of thing drummed into you on the first week of a three year course: mental illness is real, people don’t “bring it upon themselves”, it has a neurological basis. And that’s why the rest of the three years are spent learning about brain chemistry, rather than learning to smile or breath properly or whatever bollocks people think magically works.

    From what I’ve read, Anita, you’ve handled Condescending Troll admirably, and probably better than I would. Funny that it called you negative, when it was about as positive as typhoid.

    I hope you get many good days. This blog is a great source of positivity in my life.

    • On June 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm, anitadalton said:

      There were a lot of ironies in that exchange, not the least of which is that I dwell in a place of negativity. When not anxious as a cat or depressed, I think I’m a pretty happy person. :)

      I boggle at the number of people who have read some Rhonda Byrne bullshit and think that they can manifest the reality they want if they just think and hope enough, regardless of their genetics, annual salary or talent capabilities. I think that with the easy dissemination of information that the Internet brings this scourge of thinking that the sick bring it on themselves in some manner is not going to go away, and may even get worse.

      Thanks for saying that, Omine. I love this blog too, and it makes me very happy that others take some pleasure in it.

  20. On June 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm, Arthemisia said:

    I apologize if this is something you don’t want to revisit, but I made the mistake of choosing She and I: A Fugue at random while puttering around on the internet a little while ago, and was so morbidly intrigued by how awful and misogynistic it was that I felt compelled to google Mr. Brown. I don’t know if I was looking for something to tell me that he understood that his book, his character, was almost a caricature, and that it had all been deliberate, but this was the first thing that showed up on my search.

    It saddens me, in the way that I think anyone would be saddened to have uncharitable suspicions about a perfect stranger confirmed, that he’s obviously a terrible human being, and it’s reflected in his writing. But this gives a lot of insight, and I’m grateful that you took the time out of your day to write it. People get away with abusive behavior on the internet like this all the time because they have the craft of choosing targets who are likely to be too tired or (justifiably) too scared to address it down to a science, and I hope he suffers the repercussions for it for as long as he’s an active presence on the internet.

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