The internet was once the only place I ever felt safe. I only felt safe on the internet because I felt that it is so much easier to talk to people on it than in real life. I felt like it was the only place where people understood me, cause out in the real world it is completely different. Here’s an example explaining what I mean, my cousin who is only a year older then me she has her whole life already put together, I mean she already had two boyfriends and her first kiss. And I have two therapists and a stolen Netflix account. So, it is like day and night with us; our conversations always end on the phone with her being like, “Hey I got to a party and eat with my friends.” And I’m like me too I got to make a musically and feed my ego. But on the internet people get it they understand it because we’re not making our friends based on adjacency or who’s in our class. On the internet, we can hand-pick our friends from an entire world of people, based on what it is we are interested in. It is the globalization of friendship. And it is amazing; it’s like were the misfits who found each other because we don’t belong anywhere else. Or at least that’s my experience, ever since I was little I never really had that many friends. But I would sit and go on Tumblr or Instagram, and I would talk to strangers and tell my deepest secrets to a faceless username and just throw it into the deep dark cobwebs of the internet. And it is terrifying to think about, but I would just sit there for hours on end, lost in cyberspace but I’ve always felt comfortable tangled up in the world wide web. I felt safe, but I spent so much time talking to strangers about my problems, that I forgot how to deal with them in real life and, I became so content with my internet connection that I stopped working on my interpersonal connections. I became so comfortable with X and O that I pushed myself away from hugs and kisses. And it became lonely, and I started becoming forever alone in a crowded room. And I had friends, but it just always felt like I was on the outside looking in. Kind of like they were on one side of the glass, and I was on the other, because of this I spent a lot of time sobbing silently into pillows when I should have been talking to people. I started drowning in depression and most of my middle school life I was suffering silently and crippled by anxiety because I didn’t know how to talk about it anymore. And it’s a sad life because you can feel connected to so many people yet still feel so alone. I talked a lot about this with my therapist, and she asked me if I ever told my friends about this or if I ever explained my feelings, and I was like of course not. And she said “why? Is that not what friends are for, did I ever explain to them my feelings of darkness and loneliness.” I said no, no way when she asked me why. I said it’s because they couldn’t understand, how could they, they’re all so happy they all lived the beautiful, eventful lives they could never get it. And I was alienating myself by living this digital world and separating my self from them. So, recently I found myself, and it wasn’t that long ago in one of the darkest places that I’ve been in a long time. It was this bizarre sensation of feeling like my chest was going to explode, and somehow it feeling so empty at the same time. But if anybody ever asked me “Are you okay?” I would say yes, of course, I’m okay. So, on the fourth of July, I forced myself to go out, and I told myself “Tabitha you have an incredible life, go out spend time with your friends. Go to the beach, go out to eat, and it’s going to be amazing there and your going to have an amazing time.” And I did, and it worked for a couple of hours but then as the Sun went down the darkness grew and I started feeling that time bomb in my chest start ticking again. My instinct has always been to hide, I’ve always wanted to run, I’ve always hidden from my emotions, I’ve always run to the bathroom and cried instead of letting anyone see it, and that was my instinct. But, I just didn’t want to anymore, I was so tired and “hide and seek is only fun if someone is looking.” (Gabbie Hanna) So, on the fourth of July, I’m looking around, and I’m feeling these heavy emotions, and my instinct is to run, and for some reason, I just didn’t want to, I didn’t have the energy, I didn’t have the strength. I looked around at my friends, and everybody was so happy and consumed in their moment and enjoying it so much, that I just decided to sit down and just feel the pain. I sat up against a tree and all my friends are watching the fireworks and nobody noticed, and I sat there for what could have been 10 minutes or what could have been an hour. Until, one girl noticed, and this girl I don’t really have a relationship with her. She actually used to bully me and my friends on the internet, before she met me in person. And when we met it was amicable, but we didn’t really have anything in common and she wasn’t anybody I would ever see myself opening up to, and she saw that I was feeling upset, and she came up to me and she kneeled in front of me. And I was like okay, here we go she going to ask me if I’m okay, and I don’t want to talk about it, but she didn’t she said “I can’t imagine what you’re going through and I have no idea what’s hurting you but it’s going to be okay.” Then she put her arm around me and I just surprised myself because I allowed myself to sob into this girl, who not only did I expect to never even have conversation with, but I’m ripped open and bleeding out in front of her and she’s just holding me, and not asking questions and comforting me. Until I caught my breath and we pulled back, and I looked around and still nobody noticed. And I learned a lot that night and I’ve changed a lot since that night. The first thing I learned, was that it’s okay to feel, and it’s okay to feel bad things, and it’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to be sad. The second thing I learned is, it’s okay to let people know, you don’t have to put on a front it’s okay to tell people that you’re not okay. Take a step outside of your digital you, and just be vulnerable and it is so horrifying to be that vulnerable but when you do it, it is so empowering, there’s nothing more empowering than just owning your emotions. “Hide and seek isn’t fun if nobody is looking” (Gabbie Hanna), but sometimes you have to ask someone to play with you. Since that day I started opening up about things that I never thought I would open up about, with people I never thought could ever understand. And I was amazed by who and how many people shared my exact experience, my exact upbringing, my pain, my fears, my insecurities, and I didn’t know because I didn’t ask, but the next time somebody ask me if I’m okay, I will say, “No but I will be.”