When I first publish my #WalkAway story, I think maybe five to ten of my friends and family will see it. I look at it as a “safe” way (oh the innocence of youth) to “come out” to them and admit what I’ve been up to lately.
I decide to cover my bases and post it to FB and Twitter because I have conservative friends and family on both platforms that I’ve deliberately lost touch with. I want them to know that I’m sorry and ready to listen with compassion and respect, but I’m still too much of a coward to reach out to them personally.
One of these people is my own brother. This amazingly funny, musically gifted, devoted father and husband who I cast out of my life for the “crime” of being a lifelong religious conservative. I hope that my message will reach him, we unfollowed each other awhile ago (of course), but at the same time I’m too scared to directly send it to him.
I figure I’ll quietly post it and then wait for the inevitable angry phone call from my mother.
Then, as many stories nowadays begin– Reddit happened…
When I realize my video has been seen by thousands of people, this giant lurch starts to form in my gut because I immediately think of what they’re going to do with my past. There’s some pretty aggressive religious criticism and “hyper-woke” tweets, I’m sure– but it gets a lot messier than that.
I understand not everyone can be open about their struggles with mental health so I feel I have a duty to everyone out there suffering in silence to be LOUD about my fight to stay positive and move forward.
I consider for a moment whether I should take it down or make it private. Then I realize that’s exactly what my critics want me to do.
Strangers are using my love for creative and artistic expression as a way to convince others that I’m lying. They’re using my looks and my ability to speak in complete, mostly coherent sentences to say I must be a Russian bot or an alt-right, paid actor. My 20-year-old suicide attempt and my willingness to speak openly about it are being used as a means to discredit everything I have to say.
The problem? I’m not ashamed of any of it. You aren’t going to make me stop acting, you aren’t going to make me stop thinking, you aren’t going to make me stop speaking by pointing out my issues. A damaged person that comes out the other side and embraces life is only made stronger by that damage. No amount of abuse hurled at me by strangers online will ever come close to the mental abuse I used to inflict on myself.
I just want to tell anyone reading this who has a past, who dares to say out loud that you’re going to think for yourself, if you’re openly proclaiming that you’re walking away they’re probably going to try and attack your credibility by using anything they can find to discredit you.
I sincerely hope you don’t let that silence you.
And there are happy endings: my mother has yet to say anything about the video. I’m holding out hope for her. But my brother saw it, loved it, and reached out to me. I know that we’re going to be okay going forward and I hope we find ourselves together again soon.
Please keep adding your voice to this collective of people from every side of the political fence that want to return to the days of compromise by engaging in civil discourse. Stay strong everyone, it’s rough out there but there’s light at the end of this tunnel if we keep coming together to support one another. You know where to find me if you need help.