Usually, when something upsets me online, the typical and dismissive response from most is that “It’s just social media”.
It is a bizarre landscape that you cohabitate with millions of other people. By design, it is both intimate and public.
Since I’ve started sharing my art online, I’ve made some of the best connections and friendships in my life via social media.
Just like in “real life” people can come and go from your personal radar. Yesterday I realized that I hadn’t heard from a casual acquaintance for about six months.
They weren’t in a stable living situation, so we had routinely gone through six month periods without speaking before. As I began searching, I noticed that they had updated any of their feeds in a while.
When I checked Facebook, I saw the list of condolences and tributes on their timeline dedicated their memory. They committed suicide in August of last year.
Earlier in the year, I lost another friend to a similar experience who took a fatal overdose of drugs. I’m not really sure how to feel in either of these situations.
You’re left grieving someone that you knew well enough to be sad at their passing, but also, not close enough to realize that they are away until six months have gone by.
In both instances, it was reassuring to see the things that people wrote were the same impressions memories that I was left with. In both instances, they were people that had dealt with sexual abuse, and addiction.
They were topics I spoke to each individual about in private, but they never appeared to be in any imminent danger.
I know their traumas contributed to much of the difficulties and challenges in their lives. They both worked hard to overcome their obstacles and in the end, succumbed to their darker impulses.
What makes the situation a little harder to stomach, is that the people in their lives were not surprised at their passing and openly acknowledge their pain.
It wasn’t that long ago, that I was blacking out every day, trying to ease my own agony. Life was dark, scary and downright terrifying. It felt impossible to continue carrying my burdens.
I know this pain, and if I had passed I think those around me would have acknowledged it as well. Yet, it was never a topic of discussion by my peers. At least not to my face.
To me, that is the real tragedy. Both people carried a burden that they were ashamed to speak of until ultimately opening up to a stranger on the internet. Yet, once they were gone it was widely acknowledged that both had suffered a great deal in life.
Sharing my past struggles and pain openly has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Yet, at the same time, only good things have come from speaking my truth.
I’ve received an outpouring of support, and have had others confide in me that my experience is a shared one and not a burden for me to carry alone.
More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to help point a few people in the right direction to find resources to cope with their own challenges. I have zero regrets and would gladly do it again.
As alone as I ever felt, these days the love and support I receive serve as a constant reminder that I am not.
If you feel alone and are carrying around any unnecessary burdens in life, I just want to let you know that there is no shame in your truth. Talking to people that can help provide you with the right tools and coping mechanisms can help ease the hardship of suffering.
Should you know someone that is carrying a burden, starting an open and honest dialog with them is the best thing you can do to help put them on a path to recovery.