Can the internet hold your hand through dark and difficult times?
And not yank it away when the going gets tough, as it does on a regular basis?
Many of us do exactly that without even knowing we’re doing it and keep showing up day after day.
As I continue to live out of a suitcase called home and slowly figure out how to move back to Europe so I can help my parents while my stepmom undergoes further treatment for Stage IV cancer, the internet is here. As I grope my way forward toward the light in a world in flux devoid of steady landmarks, the internet is here.
But the human collective that is the internet isn’t some faceless nonentity; we are it, you and I and everyone else with tech privilege. And you do me the kindness of stepping inside my head for a few minutes each day and you also reach out with comments, advice, questions, and messages.
Without readers, there wouldn’t be writers; no one ever writes alone.
Your own words go a long way toward lightening the load and making my day that little easier; in short, you lift me up.
It is thanks to the internet that I was able to begin reconnecting with the world about a year ago after losing five years to major depressive disorder during which I was a mostly housebound hermit.
And a year later, I’m finally coming back to life.
These days, it no longer takes a village, it takes an internet.
Choosing to rebuild a life in print and in public by unpacking the vagaries of living with a wonky brain was a counterintuitive decision.
Being visible as a mentally ill woman is always a crapshoot and opens you up to all kinds of online nastiness; each troll is a crash course in how we humans sometimes behave when faced with inconvenient truths.
But the most inconvenient truth of all is that your ability to keep going is never a given because depression means you can no longer afford to take your brain for granted.
In my case, depression forever lies in wait, ready to pounce, and steal my writing voice again. As my illness is chronic, I’ve had to learn to accommodate it and its limitations rather than attempt to override its presence and fail.
The more I used to conceal its existence, the worse it got, but the moment I gave it a seat at the table it started losing some of its power.
Now, I’m able to spot the signs I’m about to keel over so I can generally prevent illness from completely incapacitating me again. There are bleeps, they vary in length and severity but they do go away.
With this, too, you’ve been helping me; thank you.
Lives unfold and entire worlds are created or remade through private messages at any given hour of the day or night.
At a time when the internet keeps being vilified for exacerbating disconnectedness between humans, I’ve gathered much evidence to the contrary since I started writing again in the summer of 2018.
While online communication can often be shallow, vacuous, and more than a little deceitful, the opposite is also true. When we view our digital presence as an extension of our physical one and behave the same way online and offline, kindred spirits eventually find one another. When translated into pixels and data packets, our humanness seeks its kin much as it does in meatspace.
While not everyone feels comfortable sharing as much of themselves as I do, I identified openness early on as one of the prerequisites of mental health advocacy. What I didn’t expect is for you to react as generously as you have, by sharing your own insights, by offering advice, reassurance, support. And I most certainly wasn’t ready for anyone to dive in at the deep end with me and offer me the gift of continued presence, of support, of friendship.
That is as invaluable as it is life-altering in a way words can’t yet do justice to, or if they can, I still haven’t found them.
To someone who was cut off from the world for as long as I was, it was quite a shock to discover I could still communicate effectively and connect with fellow humans in a meaningful, heartfelt way.
Together, we’re building bridges, one word at a time.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.