On the Loss of a Friend
Let me tell you a little love story about me and the Internet.
I MEAN WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?!
My very first job out of college was one that provided me complete unblocked access to the Internet. In fact, I've blessedly never had to work a mindless office job without the Internet as my copilot. When social media came along? All the better. It became more of a challenge to, you know, GET THINGS DONE when there were suddenly all these people to stalk on Facebook, but it was a good problem to have. Now, as a freelancer, the Internet makes my work-from-home situation possible. But as much as the Internet giveth, it also taketh away: how many times have I engaged in pointless Facebook arguments? Read horrendous things in a comment section? Indulged the urge to see what mean things people snarked about me or things I've written? Endlessly compared myself to filtered Instagram portraits (how does she look like that with no makeup?! HOW?!) Oof. The Internet is my crutch and my curse. It's a source of comfort and a thief of valuable time. It's my lifeline to precious friends and the constant temptation to judge behind the anonymity of my screen.
In 2007, I decided to take the leap into the blogging world. My (now defunct) personal blog is how I connected other writers in my area, one in particular who wrote for a pop culture website. I visited the site, read some stories, commented on some posts, and boom: internet friendship forged. When the site was in the market for a few new writers, I was fortuitously brought into the fold. I began blogging weekly, and communicating with my new cyber friends through sometimes-goofy-sometimes-serious email threads, where it became evident that this was a candid bunch of people who were as quick to support as they were to share. I instantly had a new Internet family.
It was through this group I first met Stacy, who had the unique ability to make you feel like her instant BFF through her words alone. Witty, sharp, and warm, Stacy was an online pal well after the pop culture site closed up shop, and together with a few other friends, we began a Facebook group for posting a treasure trove of funny images, NFSW memes, videos — anything that made us laugh (and would probably make your mother faint). Stacy and I messaged back and forth from time to time, but it had been a year since we had any conversations about real life stuff.
A couple of days ago, Stacy took her own life. The devastation I felt at the news didn't seem to line up with the fact that I hadn't spoken to her in months, barely knew anything about her offline life, had never even been in the same room with her. But I knew that she had her struggles, just like me. Just like so many of us. And when I heard that she was gone, I guess it was like hearing that any (or all) of my friends–my beautiful, talented, loving, complicated, struggling friends–were gone as well. That this is how it would feel if any one of us given up the fight. I don't even know if that makes sense; I'm still trying to make sense of it myself.
The same crowd that surrounded me in those blogging days (most of whom I have also never met) has resurfaced to mourn her, along with countless others. My feeds are clogged with photos and memories of her humor, loyalty, talent, intelligence. Some wondered along with me whether we might have been able to hold on to her longer if we had just sent another message, text, email at just the right moment. But maybe sometimes it's not a matter of losing your grip on someone. Maybe sometimes they're determined to wriggle free.
I am lucky that this is the first time I have ever had to deal with suicide striking so close to me. I am shocked by how many friends have come forward in the past couple of days to tell me about the suicides they've weathered amongst friends and family, but so grateful for their words — all sent to me online or via text, but feeling just as comforting as an in-person hug. I have resolved to become more vigilant on checking in on those people (IRL and otherwise) who might just need a texted hello or a video of a surfing squirrel posted to their timelines.
So I guess it's not so much that I love the Internet for its memes and mindless games and the creepy-creepin' on Facebook profiles (although HOT DAMN, do I love that stuff), it's that I love the people that have been brought into my life through a series of screens, sites, and apps. It seems impossible and silly and maybe even a bit melodramatic, but it's so true. My virtual world is full of real connections — bloggers whose lives I've followed for years as their kids went from residents in pregnant bellies to lanky first-graders, the mother of five who took time out of her day to respond to my panicked email about postpartum depression, the friend hundreds of miles away I've emailed for the past six years about life, motherhood, career, art, gossip, family, heartache, and the proper way to eat soft serve ice cream (with rainbow sprinkles). I've never heard their voices. I've never hugged them. But they're there. And that's real.
What isn't real? The lies that depression feeds you so convincingly, and how tempting it is in moments of self-loathing to swallow them whole. The voice that tells you you're hopelessly broken. Unforgivable. That no one cares. That you're a burden. That the world would be better without you. That there is no chance for things to get better, brighter, and easier. Find some light. Fight for it. We are all in this together. We are all rooting for you.
IF YOU NEED HELP, IT'S AS EASY AS A TEXT AWAY.
You can enjoy some of Stacy's beautiful photography here.
You can donate in her honor here.
You can always contact me for anything at gayle[dot]pazerski[at]gmail.com
Featured photo by Anastacia Campbell, 2015
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