Long days ago most of us watched the same TV channels and had some sort of communal experience. If you heard about something, the odds were very good that most of the people in your immediate vicinity heard about it too. And even if you never talked about it you could go through your life feeling like there was a kind of general fabric of life that most of the people around you operated in.
And then came the internet.
The internet is a weird place. I guess we all know that. You can be
attached to people you don't even know. You can pretend people you do
know don't exist by un-friending them. You can be amazed, amused and
instructed by things created by people all over the world who don't know (or
care) you exist. You can chip in a few bucks and fund an landfill orchestra in Paraguay (I did). You can be horrified as well. That's how it works.
That general fabric of life that you thought everyone operated in kinda stopped existing at some point. But time passed and you started getting the hang of that as well. You just accepted that your next door neighbour, your family and even your best friend was surfing radically different sites than you and looking up stuff on wikipedia that you'd never even heard of. That's okay ... you hardly spoke to your neighbour anyway, and your family was miles away and your new best friend might be on the other side of the planet because of your deep mutual fascination with some microcosmic detail of a book you both read when you were 10. That, my friends, is progress. Right?
But, at the heart of everything, we're still human (the last time I checked anyway), and the impulse to attach to other people is pretty strong. The need to feel something in common with someone, to be understood, to be appreciated, and to understand and appreciate in return. The good part of being human.
You probably wonder where all this is going. Well ... there's this blog I read. The person who posts on it is entirely unknown to me in the real world. Don't know if it's a he or a she or how old, or where they live. Let's call this person Allie (which I believe is this person's real name). I think Allie may be a she, but possibly because I'm a she, or possibly because so much of what Allie writes about hits the mark for me. But (having said that) the things that most hit the mark for me are things about being human, not about being a she.
Allie never posted very frequently. The posts were always accompanied by roughly drawn and bitingly adorable characters made in a primitive paint program, possibly even THE paint program that was birthed way back at the beginning of our computer age. I would eagerly await Allie's posts. There was so much truth and pain and funny packed in the posts they would often make me laugh and cry at the same time. One post I particularly remember was about accompanying someone to the hospital and this person being handed a visual pain indicator chart with a series of faces on it. The faces ranged from a smiley face "0" (feeling good, I presume) to a crying non-smiley face "10" (indicating a level of pain). Allie felt this was totally inadequate to the situation and drew a new version which would better represent the experience. Allie also wrote a wickedly creepy story about a teenage boy beset by a birthday party's worth of little girls that raised the hair on the back on my neck.
The last time I read something new was almost two years ago. The last I read, Allie was on the verge of having the posts ~ the stories and the crazy primitive paint drawings ~ published in book form. I told Allie (via the comment section, along with a lot of other readers) that I was *so* looking forward to owning her book. And then it looked like a whole lot of nothing happened.
The internet is a weird place. If someone you're used to reading drops off the net, you can never be sure why. Was their computer stolen? Were they hit by a bus? Did they marry someone fabulously rich who whisked them away to a remote island with no electricity? I missed Allie's truth-speaking, exaggerated whirlwind stories. I missed how Allie got to the nub of life in just a few words. I missed the simply drawn but I-*so*-know-what-you-mean little people faces. I wondered what happened ...
This morning I noticed a new post from Allie. It's about depression.
I think everyone at some time or other in their life comes face to face with it. Some of us are able to bring ourselves back from the brink before it all starts spiraling out of control, some not so much. I read through the post. It's pretty amazing. It made me think of times in my life when things looked pretty bad and how I made it back. It made me worry that some day Allie won't make it back. My first instinct was to leave a comment telling Allie how amazing the post was and that I was glad s/he was better now. Then I noticed that 5000 other people were already there (yes, really - 5000!) saying very much that same thing. I read some of the comments and pretty much anything I'd be brave enough to say was already said in the first 200 comments.
I decided to do the next best thing I could think of - write my own post and send a few people Allie's way. Even if you've never been depressed I'd lay strong odds that you know someone who has. I highly recommend reading Allie's post. It may be the most true, useful, uncensored (and yet still awkwardly funny) account of the illogical experience of depression I've read. If thinking about reading about depression is too depressing, start somewhere randomly in the Allie's post archives. Get a feel for how Allie writes, enjoy the biting wit and the quirky drawings and then read the most recent post later.
And then go out and have some kind of grateful amazing day.