I Thought It Was Only Me

all about me

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.”

24 Comments on “I Thought It Was Only Me

  1. I don’t think the internet has simplified teenaged and young adult depression. When we were kids, if you did something dumb your whole school found out, but you could still get away from it. Like my friend who got pregnant, left school to have her baby, and went back to a different school for a fresh start. Nowadays if you mess up, everyone from your classmates to high schoolers in New York to a 40 year old man in Oregon is laughing at you. Also young people who suffer from depression will tend to trust the internet more than they should, feeling that “finally someone truly understands me”….because you can put any face/voice you want on words on a page. This leads to innapropriate relationships or to young girls posting half naked pictures based on encouragement from men who are lying about their age, looks, and anything else they can think of. The world outside my door and the one on the internet are the same. There is just more opportunity for deception in the body-human body. Sure, there is also more opportunity to speak to people you would never normally meet by hiding behind an avatar, but for me the benefit didn’t outweigh the risk.

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    • There’s no way to simplify depression and the internet can be used to alienate and hurt people. The internet can’t be trusted the same way a journal can’t be trusted. I knew a girl who had her journal stolen and her “friends” passed it around school. It’s people who betray, not journals, not the internet. There are nasty people congregating in all sorts of forums but there are also genuinely nice people joining together in community. My point is that the internet provides people the opportunity to seek answers anonymously, something I didn’t have when I was younger. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  2. I just read this, wow, so true Karen. It struck a chord with me. I am a novice to the blogging world but i suspect you are right , it acts an interactive journal that through posts gathers support and encourages us to speak. Thanks.

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    • An interactive journal is a great way to describe it! That’s why I love replying to comments and commenting on blogs. It makes it feel like more of a conversation. Anyone can get followers but it takes conversation to cultivate readership. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  3. Wonderful post. I sometimes wonder also, why I keep exposing myself to the world through my writing. Every time I start to lay my pen down something happens that makes me pick it back up again. I appreciate your story, your candor, and your courage to share your life. ❤

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  4. Karen, Beautifully stated. I especially loved the ‘digital courage’ line. I relate to all of it. I have found much comfort in my vulnerability. And it seems like the opposite would be true. The freedom comes when you let your guard down and say, “This is me, I’m enough, even with my flaws, I’m enough.” I was taught that the opposite was true. I found otherwise through my journey in sobriety. You are an incredible writer. The depth of your exposure is admirable. I, among many, have been enriched by your journey. You make me feel like it “wasn’t only me.” xox

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    • I was taught the opposite too and I’d probably still question it if I hadn’t connected to so many amazing people through blogging. What’s cool is that I’m more attuned to authentic people in the “real world” now that I can recognize the qualities. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It means the world to me!

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      • 1) I love the new photo.
        2) I understand what you mean by “authentic people” because when you are authentic there is no need to announce it. Somehow you find each other as you find you.
        3) As does your support for me and my sobriety. xo

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  5. I really love this. I think the blogging community is unique in a lot of ways, but mostly the fact that it is indeed a community. I love reading about other people’s struggles and hoping someone might get something from mine.

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    • I do too. I also love reading comments on other blogs and replying to ones left on mine because it creates a conversation. I always learn something! Thank you for your thoughts!

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  6. Yup. I think you said it all. And the best part is nobody has to be alone. Because there is always someone who has been there too. And that really does make all the difference sometimes.

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  7. I love this line “Digital courage is just as bad as liquid courage”.

    I agree about why we blog. To share our stories and hopefully help others to heal. To find support. To find a kindred spirit. So many times I’ve cursed the internet. So many other times I feel indebted to have met so many amazing and brave people. Like you! 🙂

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  8. This is so very true. I know that when I get really exhausted it begins to get hard to not answer questions rather literally and “overshare.” When you do this in real life sometimes you get funny looks. When you do this online you might find someone in the exact same boat. Perhaps it is the (at least) one layer of being removed that makes people feel a little bit freer (sp?) to share things. In “real life” if I say that I have spent more days wanting to die than I have wanting to live a large percentage of people won’t even believe me. If I say that on a blog the responses can be quite surprising. It is so very important for anyone (myself included) to not feel alone. Thank you for the reminder of the good parts of blogging.

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    • That’s a good point about “real life”. If people posted on their facebook pages what they post on blogs, they’d most likely be accused of trying to get attention. I’ve seen it happen. Yet, I also hear people complaining that no one is ever real on facebook. I’m just grateful that people have more options now than they used to and that there seems to be a shift in understanding that vulnerability isn’t weakness. Thanks for your comment!

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  9. AMEN…..I say amen!
    Perfectly stated.
    We were not alone then but could’t anonymously find that out.
    For those of us who need to anonymously learn, who need to ease into sobriety, who, like me several years ago was talking late into the night with other widows when i couldn’t sleep, the collective healing has been a miracle, one I am so grateful for.
    That is why we do this, as an act of service to ourselves and others…and to remind myself, with every agreeable comment, that I am not, and never will be alone.
    Thank god!

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    • I stalked blogs anonymously for a long time too and I know that if it wasn’t for recovery blogs, I wouldn’t have been able to stay sober. I’m not looking to get rich blogging, get a book deal or win a popularity contest and sometimes I forget why I really do this. Then I read a post like Laurie’s and I remember. Thanks MIchele!

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  10. Really enjoyed this Karen. I’ve often wondered why I also “put it all out there” for anyone to see with a simple click. And ,maybe even more than wanting to encourages others, it’s to be reminded I’m not alone. I am very glad you blog and contribute to “our collective healing”.

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    • Thank you Debby! I feel encouraged when I see all the amazing, brave bloggers who share their stories. It reminds me that most people want to make a difference if they can.

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