Can You Save A Life Over The Internet?

So last night while I was tooling around Tumblr, I happened to come across a post on someone’s blog (she runs a sort of anti-bullying blog and she’s awesome). As you can see below, it was fairly disturbing:

every-one-is-mad-here: Would anyone here be pissed off or Sad if I committed suicide today? Seriously considering it.

If this was ten years ago, I might have not cared much, or worse, thought it was some cry for attention. Keep in mind I haven’t always been the nicest or most caring guy for a big chunk of my life. But over the last decade or so, I’ve had a huge shift in my thinking.

And let’s keep in mind that these days, bullying and kids committing suicide over the bullying has become almost an epidemic. Just last night I read FOUR different stories from four different places in America / Canada about teenagers that have killed themselves over bullying, depression, or any number of reasons. Four stories in about ten minutes, and that’s without me going and searching out these particular kinds of stories.

I love Tumblr and the majority of the Tumblr community. They are touchy-feely caring and kindness types that Facebook can only have wet dreams about. Their level of awareness and action for a social network is light years ahead of any other place I’ve been to. Of course this doesn’t always equate to real-world action, it is the internet after all. And being the internet, Tumblr is of course a place for like-minded individuals to gather and exchange ideas.

As I’m reading this very disturbing post, something I think just snapped in me. It isn’t like I’ve never responded to one of these kinds of posts with some words of encouragement, as I have, but I’ve never had the urge to completely and totally lay some shit out for a person before on ANY social site. For some unknown reason (and you may attribute this to God or Jesus or whomever you please if that pleases you, but realize that I am pretty much an atheist, with a slight coloring of agnosticism), I just absolutely had to write something to this person. This stranger on the internet. This entity that could be a troll on the other end, or a person that literally had a gun to their heads as they were typing that message.

So I sat there and wrote this:


I have no clue who you are but yet I would be extremely pissed off that another worthy life was self-extinguished. Just because you are a stranger doesn’t mean that your life means nothing to me or anyone else reading this. You might feel like it is the only option, or a good option, or even just an option. It is, there’s no denying that, but I can tell you from personal experience that those commercials you see on TV about ‘it gets better’ are true, and they aren’t just for the LGBT community. Sometimes it just takes a while.

I’m 40. For the first 30 years, I was abused physically, emotionally, and mentally first by my mother for fifteen years, then by my father for a few more until I had enough. Then I became the abuser. Drugs were my favorite, and I’m not talking little shit like smoking weed. I lost everything I had twice to crack cocaine, including a wife. I lost my freedom when I committed crimes to get more dope. I almost did a long stretch in prison. I was bullied and I did some bullying when I was growing up. I lived both when I was an adult and doing drugs.

Right around 30 everything finally started to come together for me. I’m clean, and have been for 12 years. I’m healthy, I play ice hockey and exercise 3-5 times per week depending on the time. I’m married and we’ve been happy, stable, and best friends for all 10 years we’ve been together. I put her through college and a Master’s degree by working hard and now she’s letting me live my dream of becoming a writer.

As of today I published my first short story, and have a book of them plus a full-length novel that should be ready to publish by the end of May. We bought our first house last March. We have five very fat, very stupid, but very loving cats. I have every reason to live, and I often think back to more than a few times during my dark teens and twenties when I nearly ended everything.
What does my bullshit have to do with you? It is supposed to mean that life is HARD. Not hard, but HARD. It is a test. It means that it won’t always be this HARD. Eventually it just gets hard, which is still tough, but normal as far as I can tell. It means that you aren’t on your journey alone, no matter how it feels to you. I’m just one of millions of people in this country that have been in your shoes at some point. It isn’t that just because I or others like me can do it, you can do it too just by sucking it up and getting on with it. That’s weak, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for anyone considering suicide.

Strength is taking the first step, which you’ve done by asking random internet strangers if they’d give a damn if you lived or died. Strength is recognizing that some asshole (me) took the time to write a personalized, long-winded piece to a total stranger (you) just to let you know that you are important enough to do this for. If I had to do this for 10 people like you per day, I would. If I had to spend 16 hours a day doing nothing but writing bits like this to anyone who was in your position, I would. That’s how important you are to me.

Now imagine if I actually knew who you were. Now imagine how much more I would care. Now imagine the people in your life who do care. They exist, even if you don’t think so. Seek them out. Talk to them. They will be there for you. If they won’t, seek out the next person. If no one will, seek me out again. I will type to you until my fucking fingers are reduced to bloody nubs if that will keep you in the realm of the living.

I didn’t feel particularly good about writing that. I didn’t really feel much of anything after I hit the post button. I mean, I felt like I had tried my best to make a difference for a person that was just a bunch of electronic bits to me. I had no reason to care, no reason to get involved, no reason to try and reason with anyone for any reason. I even worried that I might be doing it to inflate my sense of self-worth, like ‘hey, I did a good deed today, now I can go kick a puppy with impunity’.

When I woke up, this was the reply waiting for me:

Omg… i can’t even put my words into this, you’re not an asshole in anyway at all, you just wrote 7 really long paragraphs to a random 15 year old girl is suffering depression, Thank you so fucking much, You’re an Amazing person omg, I’m so proud of you for pulling through & getting healthy & clean, and good luck with your writing, i don’t even know what to say to this because you just saved my life, thank you! I love you. 

Even with that said my few sentences are nothing compared to what you’ve said, Good luck with everything, omg. Thank you so much, i really don’t know how to reply to this ;-; ❤❤❤❤❤❤

And I just stared at the screen for about ten minutes. I didn’t feel particularly moved, nor did I feel any kind of sense that I did something good for the world. I kind of felt nothing.

And this. Fucking. Worried. Me.

But as the day went on, it stayed with me. All day I couldn’t stop thinking about this 15 year old girl and that I, Me, Travis, might have done something to make a difference in her life.At some point I was talking to a good friend on Skype, and I showed her the exchange. Mostly just to get some kind of reaction, because I was still distant from it all. After she read it, she told me that it was a wonderful thing, and then she asked, “How do you feel?”

That question unfroze whatever was going on in my head. Suddenly I knew what I felt about the whole thing. I didn’t tell her at the time, but she will probably read this so she’ll know. I felt like crying. Not because I’m a sissy boy or am so in touch with my feelings that I’m not afraid of crying.

I just felt like crying because for all I know, this 15 year old Australian girl might have ended her own life if I hadn’t written what I did to her. It wouldn’t have been my fault if she did. I’m halfway around the world from her, and if she did end her life, I would never know. I don’t subscribe to her newspapers, nor was I a follower of her blog. And I see so many names flash across my Tumblr every day in my attempt to keep up with all of the blogging and re-blogging that I would never recognize her name again should it show up a second time. No one in her family would have taken the time to get on Tumblr and let her friends and followers know that she had committed suicide…and even if they did, I would have never known about it.

There’s something so incredibly powerful about knowing you’ve done something so important for someone that it might have saved their life. We (men anyway!) all dream of being the guy who lifts the car off the crash victim, or rescuing the baby from the burning house. That’s exciting. Typing out some words to a stranger on the internet is not really all that exciting. And in my experience with the internet (and I’m going to say here that I pretty much guarantee I have more experience with the internet than 98% of people who will read this), typing out some words on a screen to some remote stranger is about as useful as tossing some sand into the wind. And just like tossing sand into the wind, sometimes some of it comes back and gets in your eyes…and it stings.

I’m not writing this article to crow about how great I am. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back so hard that I break my arm. I don’t feel particularly proud. I do feel really good inside though, and it isn’t the kind of good that I want to run out in the streets and brag to everyone about. I suppose that by writing this, I am doing just that in a way…but I don’t really mean to do that.

There’s another feeling that i have about this whole thing though, and maybe that is the main point of this post. The fact that a strange 15 year old girl in a different country had to ask someone on the internet if her life had meaning enough to keep it intact is very fucking disturbing.

Why do we live in a society where a teenager is so vulnerable that they think suicide will make everything better? Why do we still, in 2013, make anyone different than ‘normal’ feel like a dog turd on the bottom of a shoe? A bisexual girl with depression, a bullied gay teen boy, a kid with Asperger’s, a bi-polar transgender…these things are all different than me and most everyone like me. To some, and this is the thing that pisses me off the most, this warrants taking these different persons to task. This means it is okay to be vicious, cruel, mean-spirited, hateful, and even violent to anyone that doesn’t fit in the societal view of ‘normal’ (which is a farce anyway).

Where are the supportive persons for these teenagers? Why are they not standing up for each other? Where are the parents? Why are they not accepting who and what their kids are, and standing up for them? Why are we, an entire civilization, an entire species, not doing everything possible to stamp out bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, genderism, hell, even religious intolerance? Isn’t it our duty as human fucking beings to take care of our fellow man, to protect them, to be there to help them up when they fall?

What kind of world do we live in that a teenager has to ask a random, strange person on the internet to validate their life?

I’ve replied to this girl and let her know that I now follow her blog. I do it because I give a shit about her as a human being, and to see that she posts daily so I am assured she is still alive. What happens if she feels down again one day and I’m not around or she doesn’t bother to ask me, or she asks the internet and the internet doesn’t respond? I’m not her father, I’m not her warden, I am only interested in seeing that she keeps her head above the waters, and to help her stay afloat if she needs it.

No life is so worthless that we should just let one wink out of existence without doing everything humanly possible to stop it.

No one has to reply to this. However, everyone has to think about what I’ve just written and decide what kind of world you want to live in, you want your children to live in. Change only comes when someone takes action, and social change only comes when an entire society takes action.


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