I always know that an article that I have written is doing well and being widely shared when I open up my messages to find cruel remarks inside. It is simply a fact of writing on our modern-day internet. The internet is full of trolls that seem to thrill at sitting in anonymity behind the glow of their computer screen and writing cruel things to others.
The past few months have been a time when I chose to dig deep, pushing past societal stigmas and come forward with really painful things in my life. It has not been easy for me, even though I feel that if I helped even a single person that it was worth it.
When my article about being a suicide attempt survivor went live, I received messages saying that they wish I "would've been successful" at killing myself, that I was a "loser and an embarrassment to their country" and that I will be going to hell. This was my first article to go viral and was my first experience with how ugly people can be. I sat vigil through the night that first night, reading the messages and weeping. Very few times in my life have I felt as alone as I did that night.
When my article about being a rape survivor went live, I received messages stating that I am "so ugly that I should be grateful that I was raped", that I should've "relaxed and enjoyed it" and a few pornographic pictures mixed in. (Hey, boys, unsolicited naked pics are never cool, man. Keep your pants on.) I was not prepared both for the vulnerability that I felt in the days after that piece first hit the internet (and still feel to some degree today), for the few friends that turned away from me and made me feel shame and for the onslaught of feedback, mostly wonderful, but with some powerfully hateful things missed in. I became physically ill and I truly believe that my body could not handle the immediate and overwhelming emotions that I was not in any way ready for. I went to bed for days and when I finally was able to emerge from my self-imposed isolation, I can tell you that I was not the same person than I was when I went into my cocoon -- in ways both wonderful and awful.
Recently, when an article that I wrote to bring awareness to CMV (a virus) went live I received messages stating that I'm a "fear mongering bitch" and again that I'm going to hell. (What is it with internet trolls and hell?) This time, I was rather shocked by the hate even after growing a thicker skin through these past months. I was simply trying to help others to not suffer in the way that my friend and her family has. I still can't wrap my mind around why someone can find fault with that.
Other comments or private messages that I have received are that I should put a bullet in my head, that I am an ugly bitch, etc. It is also not abnormal for me to receive emails and messages full of crude pictures. It seems that no bit of writing, no matter how harmless it seems, does not receive wrath if it does well enough to reach a wide audience.
My core belief since childhood has been that I am not worthy, a belief that many of us struggle with. These comments play on that fear, strumming the tight strings of my misery and giving evidence to that belief that I've tried so hard in my life to eradicate. It always amazes me how we seek and gather evidence to support any of our beliefs, even the ones that we wish we didn't have. It is so painful.
I can receive dozens of lovely messages but it is the harsh and awful comments that pluck at my heart and leave me feeling stuck. I find myself on a roller coaster of emotion as I swing from the highs of having a successful article and the lows of reading through the name-calling, criticism, and general ickiness of cruel messages and emails.
Years ago, these comments would have made me take a break from writing -- out of fear, out of that place of unworthiness, out of pure shame. I would have believed each and every unkind word, too mired in shame to refuse to acknowledge the cruelty.
However, today -- even after shedding a few tears -- I am celebrating my response to these comments as a win. Why? Because instead of choosing not to write, I'm going write more and write harder in spite of the naysayers and in honor of myself. In the words and advice of the great Cheryl Strayed, today I'm gonna "write like a motherf*cker."
Write on criticizers of my work -- I will use your hate to fuel my flame. I am truly sorry for whatever circumstances of your life have led you to such a low place that this is the way that you choose to spend your days. I refuse to concede to your cruelty and criticism. You may think of me as your nemesis -- wherever you choose to bring darkness, I will bring the light threefold.
The war has begun. The light will win.
This post was originally on The Zen RN.