An open letter to the Internet (or why I’ve been so absent lately)

A guest post originally shared on Medium.com.

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Dear Internet,

I’ve been pretty absent from you lately. I haven’t posted a new video or written a new blog in weeks, months even. My regularly scheduled tweets have stopped. In short, I kinda disappeared.

And Internet, I think I’m finally ready to tell you why.

road-sunset-desert-travelling
A camper van leaves a cloud of dust behind it as it drives off into a yellow sunset in the middle of nowhere.

I wish I could say it was because I had taken a social media hiatus on a desert island somewhere, free from the tether of my phone and your siren call.

No, it wasn’t that.

It’s not even about you being sometimes a scary and toxic place for women — or really just people in general. (Though, can you cool it with that? I’d really appreciate it.)

My vanishing act wasn’t even about being too busy, or having too much going on, or trying to keep all the balls in the air.

No, this was deeper. More personal.

No Internet. It’s not you. It’s me.

sky-ditch-eye-hole
A view from the bottom of a hole in the ground shows a circular view of blue skies and clouds surrounded by walls.

No Internet, I fell. I fell into a muddy, slimy pit. And even while sliding down its slippery edge, knowing I was sinking deeper and deeper, I didn’t try to stop it. Maybe a half-hearted pawing at the side of the mud-caked wall here and there, but never grabbing onto anything solid that might hold me.

To be honest, for the last few months I’ve been increasingly frustrated and disheartened. And for someone who’s usually pretty good at talking herself out of being down in the dumps about life, this time was different. More pervasive and insidious.

I started to feel like what I do, what I create, and even who I am were ceasing to matter. And somehow sharing that — with you, or even with the people who are most important to me — was wrong or pointless.

That’s a scary place to be.

I was tapped out, Internet. Running on empty. Nothing left in the tank. And not in a “I need a vacation” kind of way. But in a “I desperately need to change some things kind of way.”

Now, there are a lot of reasons for the particular placement, size, shape, and smell of this muddy pit. I’m unpacking these reasons with my therapist and working on fixing some things. Slowly. But I’m feeling better day by day and more like myself again.

And I’m well aware that this was by no means as severe a depression as I know a lot of people grapple with on a daily basis. People deal with much bigger and slimier mud pits than I’ve ever had to face and I’m humbled by their stories.

No, in the grand scheme of things, this was pretty minor. But it threw me for a loop in a really big way. So it was a wake up call.

It reminded me how precious mental health is. When I’m running on emotional empty, I can’t think straight, I can’t create, I can’t be productive — and those are some of the things I rely on most to make me feel like a valuable person.

When my mental health suffers, my whole being suffers.

The past few months have also reminded me how valuable and essential my friends and family are to me. It’s sounds cliche, but it’s true: I would still be in that muddy pit were it not for the support of some really incredible (super)humans who have been willing to reach into the pit and help pull me out.

Internet, I’m learning (again, and again, and again) that my health and wellbeing are crucial. That I need to do what’s right for me and my family in order to begin to make and do things that might be useful or meaningful to others.

Patrick Rothfuss said the most profoundly simple, but searingly true thing at NerdCon:Stories a few weeks ago:

“You don’t have to bottom out before you get help.”

He’s right. My mental health is one of my most valuable resources. I need to cherish it and treat it well.

And now that I can finally write about it, without inner reproach or crippling doubt, I need to say, person of the Internet, that if you’re reading this letter and you feel like you’re in the pit, know you’re not alone.

If you feel like what you have to share, or who you are doesn’t matter, it does.

If you feel like your story isn’t worth telling, it is.

If you find yourself in the pit, try to find solace in the experiences and stories of others who’ve been there. Learn from their mistakes and successes. Reach out to your loved ones. Go for a walk. Hug your pets. Eat healthy (or eat some chocolate, but maybe not the whole bag). Cry. Talk to your friends. Cry some more. Write about your feelings even (especially) if it feels weird and awkward. Get it out.

Do all the things that your therapist would tell you to do (turns out they’re pretty smart, those therapists) and take care of yourself.

Don’t worry Internet, this isn’t a breakup letter. I can’t quit you and I don’t want to. You have the power to connect people and ideas in ways that make my nerd heart flutter.

You’ve helped me establish and maintain relationships with some dear friends, near and far, while giving me a place to share my voice in a way that is authentic to who I am.

And Internet? I think you may actually be part of my solution; my way out of the pit.

Because you help me do the things that matter most to me. You help me connect and create and do.

So I’m coming back, Internet. Slowly but surely.

Thanks for saving my place in cyberspace,

Sara

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Dr. Sara Langworthy is an author, speaker and educational YouTuber, who is passionate about communicating scientific research with professionals and the public in ways that are both interesting AND usable. She is also an organizational advancement consultant and co-founder of The Exchange Loop, where she assists organizations by collecting, synthesizing and communicating information that will help their work to grow.

Sara received her Ph.D. in 2011 from theInstitute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota where she focused on neural correlates of cognitive processes across child development (or: studying kids brains, and how they think about the world). After finishing her degree, Sara worked for 5 years with the University of Minnesota Extension’s Children, Youth & Family Consortium where she focused on research communication, community engagement, and policy education. she lives in Minnesota with her husband Jason and two dogs, and in her free time (what’s that??) she sings with the National Lutheran Choir.

Catch up with Sara on Twitter (@DrLangworthy), YouTube, or on her website.

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