Thank You, Internet Friends
How I found a whole new world on the internet
2020 has been an incredibly difficult year, just like it has been for many others. The pandemic presented a circus of obstacles for me and my family. From all of us losing employment to my mother suddenly experiencing excruciating undiagnosed lower body pain for a total of 8 months, it was hard to even breathe. (We found out that my mother has 3 new problems along the sciatic nerve.) The most difficult adversity is figuring out how I will even manage being at home.
Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’m a 24-year-old Asian American who has suffered from being at home. 24 years of continual abuse from family, friends, professors, and a babysitter has left me wounded. For the last 7 years, I have lived in over 30 places in order to avoid my family. I found shelter everywhere I could. From sleeping in my college’s library to curling up in the basement of a random medical clinic, I was everywhere. I couldn’t be home because I didn’t want my family to trigger my mental illnesses again.
All of this running around and escaping was no longer possible when the coronavirus grew into a pandemic, and thus forcing me to be home. For the first time in years, I have to confront a reality where I knew abuse was going to be nonstop. When my father was furloughed the same day my college campus closed, I knew I was up for trouble.
Nothing can depict the terrors of being at home for me. Certain sounds like a loud voice triggers my anxiety - it reminds me of all the times that my parents fought when I was a kid and then my father attempting to throw a chair at my mother. Certain sounds like something falling triggers my trauma and fear that my mother is getting hurt again. Just breathing and doing nothing is difficult because my head constantly produces images of a past trauma that scares me. 2020 proved to me how important my mental health is because when I don’t take care of it, I will be in flight-or-fight mode 24/7 just like this year.
My gratefulness extends to thousands of internet friends. Thousands. Having been on every internet forum I could find, I just kept sharing my situation and begging for help. I needed to hear what I could do during different scenarios at home like “Why am I anxious all the time? Why do certain sounds trigger me?” Thank all the internet strangers for helping me discover that I have post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that has been delayed for decades. It explains why I panic all the time.
Talking to so many people online showed me a different world. I have always been trapped with the thousands of people I have met in New York City. I felt like I met a diversified community, but I definitely haven’t. Nothing can change the fact that somewhere in this world is someone who is living a completely different life than me. Someone out there has struggled with the same problems as I did and is offering a hand to guide me through it.
All of this help from internet strangers has lifted me up from the prison I have found myself in. I no longer heard the same things I kept hearing from thousands of New Yorkers. I no longer felt alone in this journey because people have experienced what I have this year. I finally realized how important a support system is because every time I struggled with something, I had someone to fall back on.
Dear, nothing can replace the feeling of being loved when I realized that there will always be an internet stranger with arms wide open, cushioning my fall during the toughest times. Then, that stranger will extend an arm and lift me up.
Thank you, internet friends. And thank you to the pandemic for allowing me to find a world different from what I have always been experiencing.