I didn’t know the artist who was bullied to the point of giving up. I still know her pain. Many of us do.
I don’t blame her for what she did, and I will never judge her for trying to escape. I just wish I could be there for her – and I am if she ever needs it. The problem is that she doesn’t know me, and I don’t know her, but I’ve been in her shoes. That’s why I’d drop everything to just listen – because there are some things we can’t do on our own… like survive.
I will never forget the moment when I sent my best friend a message that simply said, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m out.”
She knew I didn’t mean the chat. I didn’t mean the drama. I meant something so much worse, so much more permanent. At that moment, I was ready to rage quit on life. For a long time, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want people to know how completely I’d broke, that I was shattered. Now, I’ve healed. Sure, I have superglue and duct tape all across my heart, but it still works, and I think the scars give me character. The good kind. The kind that can’t be bought.
I also know that the only reason it never got past that one pissed off message was due to a compliment.
Sounds stupid, huh? A compliment? Like, there I was, with my life collapsing around me, honestly convinced that removing myself from the equation would make things easier on everyone else, and something as simple as “They’re just pissed because they can’t keep up,” made me stop and breathe. It was a tourniquet on my suffering.
One breath, that’s all it took for ME to stop the cycle. I’m lucky. I have a support network that is so tight, so close-knit, and so blindly supportive of each other that I just had to find a way to take that one breath and I could start moving forward again, but even now, that moment still terrifies me. Others need a little more help because they’re all on their own.
I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t “depressed” as most people like to define it. I was tired. I was so far beyond upset that even being anguished would have felt like an oasis in the sea of negativity that I was long amongst. I had become convinced that everything I touched turned to shit, that my absolutely perfect husband would be better off without me, that my pets didn’t need to suffer because I couldn’t get anything right. I was wrong, but I had nothing left, no single spark to keep me moving forward. Thankfully, my best friend knew what to do. You see, she’d been there, too. Many of us have.
She knew that saying she needed me wouldn’t help. I’d just tell her she was wrong. She knew that trying to ignore it wouldn’t make it hurt any less. Instead, she threw me a lifeline. She SHOWED me what I wasn’t failing at. She pushed and poked, and kept telling me I was GOOD at something, and rubbing it in my face until I couldn’t deny it. And she hasn’t stopped in the five years since.
I’m fine now. I’ve made it out of the hole and I can look back at that time with my eyes wide open. I know how stupid the decision seemed to everyone around me, and I also know how logical it was from the inside looking out. I know why I thought that way, and it wasn’t something that could just be argued away.
It’s so much easier to complain than to compliment. It makes us feel a little awkward to fangirl over something so minor – even when we honestly feel that way. It’s easy to be carried along by the crowd and to pick things apart. But stepping into someone else’s shoes for a moment? Especially when it’s someone you don’t really like or even know? That’s a challenge worth trying, and it makes you appreciate someone else so much more.
But most of all, to fight against bullying, harassment, and the nonstop criticism that comes with our modern always-connected lives, there’s one great thing we can all do. Give a compliment. If you see something you like, say you like it! Every compliment nullifies one of those soul-rending remarks just a bit. Just enough to stop the bleeding. Even if you’re only complimenting a portion of it (I love the cover but hated the book, or I loved the way this author writes but had problems with the MC) it still makes it easier to make that a lesson and not a mortal blow. Bruises can heal, and verbal padding helps.
For those who think they shouldn’t mollycoddle others like that? Fuck you. We all know you’ll be whining the loudest when it’s your turn to get kicked on, and trust me, your turn will come. It always does… and I’ll be the person giving you the compliments because you deserve them, too.
You know, I’ve always found it strange that we deal with the horrors so easily. Another story of rape, murder, or mayhem in the news? No biggie. Telling someone they look lovely or that we like something our friends do not? It’s terrifying – but it matters. Why is it cooler to dwell in the darkness but shameful to brag about the love we have for our friends, the adoration we have for artists, or even the wisdom seen in someone how shares our interests? Why is caring something we think of as a vulnerability? It’s really not! It’s the greatest strength any person can have. It makes us real.
I was there once before, staring into that abyss, and I noticed something I will never forget:
I wasn’t alone.
On either side of me were people dealing with just as much pain, weighing the same heavy options. I wasn’t alone, and those others could honestly understand me – and by helping me, they helped themselves. And by helping them, I realized that I was good at one thing. I was good at giving a damn. It was the first step I needed to start climbing out of my own personal hell.
To quote one of the greatest poets ever,
“There will be bad days. Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go. Be confident. Know that now is only a moment, and that if today is as bad as it gets, understand that by tomorrow, today will have ended. Be gracious. Accept each extended hand offered to pull you back from the somewhere you cannot escape. Be diligent. Scrape the gray sky clean. Realize every dark cloud is a smoke screen meant to blind us from the truth, and the truth is, whether we see them or not – the sun and moon are still there and always there is light…”
For the full poem, check it out below. And for those of you blinded by the darkness, I’m always there for you, no matter what. You matter to me. You are a big part of that lifeline that helped me get better, and I will never be able to thank you enough – even if I don’t know your name yet.