When I was in my early 20’s, I went through a very dark period in my life. It was like every bad thing that had ever happened finally caught up to me and I couldn’t deny it any longer. I sank into a deep depression, thought often about dying and just about gave up on life. I haven’t thought much about that time in awhile but it all came back to me after I read a post by Laurie at Come Up Higher called Stay Here With Me. In it she talks about a time in her life when she too wanted to die. In the post she introduces us to a spoken word poet named Andrea Gibson, who in one line summed up my life back then: But when I thought I hit bottom it started hitting back.
This was in the early 90’s, before the internet, before cell phones and before reality TV, which for all its worthlessness at least gives us the comfort that there are people out there crazier than we are. I researched my college papers by flipping through the card catalog and typed them on a typewriter. We wrote handwritten letters on real paper and had to lick the stamps. While we didn’t have to walk to school through the snow uphill both ways, things were different back then and there weren’t as many mental health options.
In those days, the only real support was the suicide hotline and while I probably should’ve called many times, I never managed to build up the nerve. If I had called, it would’ve meant that everyone would find out how broken I was. If I didn’t call, suicide would still be an option. It’s like being an alcoholic. As long as no one knows, you think you don’t have to stop drinking.
I was alone yet surrounded by people. I was terminally unique and was certain no one would understand. I was wronged, damaged and alien. I suspected that many of my friends were from the same planet as me but we didn’t talk about it. I wrote in my journal, convinced myself that I’d be locked up if anyone knew what was going on in my head and allowed a psychiatrist to prescribe drug after drug, each one making me progressively sicker.
If the internet was around back then, I wonder if I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I wonder if I would’ve stayed in college instead of dropping out my senior year because I couldn’t get out of bed. At the very least, I wonder if I wouldn’t have felt so different. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from blogging the last couple of years is that no matter what your flavor of crazy, there’s someone else out there blogging about it. If you’ve lost a child, can’t have a child, are addicted, are depressed, are traumatized, have an illness or have an extra toe on your left foot, there’s support for you.
There are days when I wonder why I blog. Why expose my personal struggles to the world? Why show my vulnerability? Why give myself labels like alcoholic or abuse survivor? Because sharing my story adds to our collective healing. No one has to be alone anymore. I remember what that felt like and I almost didn’t make it to the other side. People struggle everyday and if just one person reads this and knows they’re not alone, then I’ll keep telling my story.
I’m continually amazed at how the internet can connect people and facilitate healing. It can also bring out the worst in otherwise well meaning people and encourage hiding behind masks. Digital courage is just as bad as liquid courage. But there’s nothing like stumbling across someone who shares your deepest fears and can inspire a path you haven’t thought of before. There’s nothing like the feeling when you can say, “Wow. I thought it was only me.”