My mom sent me a link to a beautiful piece called When you can’t be the person the Internet wants you to be.
It’s sad and eloquent, and I can’t do it justice in a summary. I really recommend you read it. Still, some of you don’t have time or inclination, so I’ll do the best I can.
Essentially, this woman is looking at losing everything if she can’t get a job and paycheck by April 1st. She also lost her mom this year and has a turbulent relationship with her dad. Understandably, she’s suffering from pretty severe depression.
While some friends have been helpful and supportive, some stay away. Worse, others tell her that she just has to have a more positive attitude, that it won’t be like this forever, etc. In that fun way people do when they’re so uncomfortable with your bad luck/situation that they have to passive aggressively blame you for it.
Unfortunately, that kind of thing sticks in your mind (especially when you’re depressed), and she feels pressure to straddle the line between too sad and too happy — since either one will get nasty comments online. Seriously, go read the post. It’s a beautiful diatribe on society’s outlook on negativity, the suffering of others, etc.
Here’s a somewhat edited version of what I left on her blog. I rehashed a fair amount from my I’d rather be inspired than inspiring post, so I took that out and made a few other small changes:
I guess I’ve been lucky that I present myself to people as someone who’s a depressive with chronic fatigue. People know (more or less) what they’re in for, and if they don’t like it, they don’t stick around.
I think you’re on the right track. Depression is one of the only diseases that makes us feel ashamed for having it. Well, that and the disease of stupid, callous friends who make offhand remarks. Luckily, both are treatable.
As I said, I think you’re on the right track. You’re at least owning your sadness on here and with some friends. Blogs are our places to vent and think things through in our writing. Well, mine is anyway. Maybe that’s why it’s not terribly profitable.
I guess what I’m saying is that, much as it may seem otherwise, the Internet doesn’t want you to be anything in particular. It’s a self-imposed idea because depression makes us remember the bad rather than the good. One troll or stupid friend resounds a thousand times louder in your memory than the several supportive friends who take you out for lunch or donuts or who send you cat videos.
Plenty of people on the Internet are relieved when someone else admits to pain and sadness because depression makes us feel not just ashamed, but terribly, terribly alone. And the beauty of the Internet is that you can reach out to people you’d never meet (especially when depression makes it hard to leave the house) and find solace or at least people who know what you’re going through.
For all of that, and my cavalier attitude, remarks do still wound me. But wounds scab or scar over, and the skin is a lot tougher thereafter. Of course, I’m not telling you to think positively. I’m not an idiot or asshole (most days, anyway). I am, however, telling you to be depressed on here. Let it out, and you’ll find people grateful for the honesty.
And perhaps send out a blanket email to friends, especially the ones who stay silent, and explain what you need. “Please don’t give me space. I don’t need more time alone with my sadness. I need cat videos and ones of Trump’s head superimposed on Game of Thrones characters. I need someone to get me out into the sunshine because I won’t go by myself. I need you to help me when I can’t help myself — and sometimes even I don’t know what that means, but I need you to try. Oh, and I need you to never, ever tell me to think positively or that it’ll all turn out all right in the end.”
I had to send something similar, minus the online videos suggestion, when I became suicidal several years back. I cried out of humiliation as I typed it and I gritted my teeth to hit send. But friends responded and tried harder to give me what I needed.
It’s hard and painful and humiliating and scary. But some people are afraid to say the wrong thing, so they say nothing at all. And after the email or however you announce it, the ones who still stay silent or offer platitudes… they’re the first ones that get cut when friend-culling season arrives. Because it’s not you. It’s them.
Empathy vs sympathy
I empathized with her apprehension and frustration. I remember a time when it was all I could do to leave the house — emotionally, physically and financially.
But I could only sympathize about her fear of being honest with her struggles. Because it rarely occurs to me not to chronicle my pain, emotional suffering, self-doubt, trials and/or tribulations, and other less-than-Disney-grade days.
I’ve complained about yard ordinances and vaccinations. I’ve written about my miscarriages and the emotional struggles (and financial struggles) with infertility. I’ve discussed living with disability, such as trying to function around a fatigue that’s unimaginable to most healthy people. I’ve blogged about my depression. (In fact, one of my most humiliating posts is about missing my meds. I desperately want to delete it, but it seems to help some people.)
Heck, sometimes I even put up posts about money and frugality.
Honesty vs bravery
I had a couple of people thank me for writing about my miscarriages, and it took me aback. They seemed to think it was brave to put it all out there. But I thought nothing of it.
I wrote about the miscarriages not because I thought the subject was something that more people need to talk about, but instead because they were huge parts of my life. They caused grief and self-doubt and all sorts of other icky emotions that even mentally healthy people struggle with. This blog is about my life, so how could I possibly omit that?
As best I can tell, my life — our journey through the peaks and troughs and everything in between — is what you guys come for. You’re not looking for sterile money advice or listicles. (Unless it’s about money lessons from Deadpool, Sons of Anarchy, Spock or Wrestlemania.)
You come for my pontifications (and occasional rants) about money, frugality, disability, depression, infertility or whatever shiny object catches my attention. And most of you keep showing up for my next emotional splat onto the virtual page.
So I keep sharing. Sure, partly because some of these subjects (disability, depression and infertility) do need to stop being taboo. But mostly because you guys are my support system, my sounding board and that patient friend who sits through your weltschmerz-laden tirades with a smile.
As a consequence, I have almost no qualms about sharing intimate aspects of my life. Thankfully, most of you seem to have no qualms about reading them. Sometimes they even seem to help you, which is an excellent way for me to rationalize continuing this ultimately self-indulgent, navel-gazing exercise I call my blog.
So thank you
I knew I was lucky to have such a great collection of readers — ones who cheer me on when we succeed, give me a virtual hug when things go bad and make soothing noises when I sob via words on a website.
But I never truly appreciate how lucky I am until I see other people’s struggles with trolls. Or until I realize how scared they are to share anything that isn’t positive, even with faithful readers.
I forget how many bloggers don’t feel safe expressing any negativity. Even my mom had a hard time admitting some recent struggles with mild depression.
Conversely, when I have a bad time, I immediately start devising a woe-is-me post for some much-needed sympathy and/or advice.
So I’m baffled. I mean, I vaguely remember when I was ashamed about my depression and disability. But venting on this blog has helped me come to terms with the fact that it’s just another characteristic of mine: 5’5″, a little plump, brown hair, brown eyes, surprisingly pale, bipolar II, chronic fatigue.
It’s because I’ve gotten to talk about it so frankly on here — without being judged. Well, that, a bunch of therapy and a loving, supportive husband. But you guys played a big part.
So thank you. Thank you a million times over for being there for me — both for my own mental health and so that, hopefully, my sharing helps other people out there.
If you blog, do you worry about judgmental readers, or do you find support in them? If you’re a reader, what are you here for?