WARNING: This story contains difficult topics such as suicide, loss, eating disorders, and cyber-bullying.
My past came back to haunt me the other day.
I had predicted it many times before.
I’ve often pondered the day they’d track me down. What if they tried to restart all the damage caused way back when?
It started at a time in my life when I was most fragile. My mother had just died and I was at the cusp of my grief. Though, I didn’t know it, for at that point, I had gone completely numb. I would stay up for nights on end, not sleeping and chain-smoking. My fingers tapped away at 1,000 books that would never be published. I’d isolated myself from everyone, everything. Though, I didn’t notice.
When I didn’t care to make a friend in this world, somehow one found me anyway. I’ve spoken about him before, on my own, but that’s another story. We were both members of a popular forum online at the time. What was strange, perhaps, was the way we sort of “bumped into” each other, not knowing we didn’t live far from one another.
This friend and I would later go on to build impossibly wonderful things. A company, countless artworks, a book, an unfinished video game concept, tutorials, short stories, music, sound effects, you name it. It all fell under the same umbrella, part of something that rose and fell all in just a few years.
We had a main website up and several subpages, along with an online forum of our own and a YouTube channel. When we hit our highest point, our absolute zenith, it all came crashing down.
During the first night, when we first started to notice pieces of our site disappearing, subtle changes, my friend sent me an email. It simply contained this song:
-and I knew exactly what he meant.
It’s remained a reminder to this day.
The Freight Train
Due to something unrelated (I still don’t fully know the reason. Only bits and specs of the truth.), a person and a group of others decided to slowly hack and destroy everything my friend and I had built. Then, they took things a step further and got a little more personal.
They started to hack into my personal files, my entire computer at the time, and the manner in which they obtained said information and later used it against me, soon caused an outcome I don’t fully think they were expecting.
It got so much more invasive than you’d expect. They’d gotten hold of months worth of conversations I’d had, bits of writing I’d shared saved to their hard drives, in special folders. One of the hackers in particular (the one that set this whole train in motion) even developed a bit of an obsession, openly admitting he had a folder on his computer named after me, a desktop wallpaper with my face, among many other disturbing, unnerving things. He threatened me, but never directly- and all of them were quick to cover their tracks. They always cleaned up their messes and did their hacking covertly, using software that masks them and the detection used to obtain their wanted info.
After all this went on, the worst was yet to come. Social Media had just started booming around that time. So they took to it, delving even deeper into my personal life, even going as far as to contact some friends and acquaintances.
I remember a series of about three nights where I’d log into any random account and everything I saw online was a post about me. They were incredibly smart never to use my name, but they’d use hints and codes so I’d know it was directed at me.
The worst of it was on the last night, they brought my deceased family members into it, mainly my mother. They claimed I paraded their deaths around, in seeking out pity or sympathy or attention.
Let me say right now for the record: That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Anything I’d ever shared with people about loss was done so in trust, and never to seek out some miserable empty attention. In fact, I wanted to be invisible around that time. I’d turn away anyone but my best friend, and the main people in my everyday life. Maybe some of that was the problem. They just made false assumptions based on bits and pieces of my life.
They dragged my name through the mud. They accused me of a laundry list of atrocities, and even crimes. All the time threatening to press charges on me for reasons that would make you laugh. Of course none of it held or would hold up in court. It didn’t matter, though, I believed them. The damage was done.
Those three long nights of online harassment at the hands of them, and people I thought I knew, caused me to lose my mind.
I mean that exactly how it sounds. The panic disorder I had at the time brought every feeling I’d been internalizing bubbling to the surface, and I cracked. I had a nervous breakdown and it was no one’s fault but mine.
The Road to Repair
After that whole ordeal (I’ll spare you the details of the breakdown itself), I went into an extensive set of therapies. I quit bad habits, I became healthier, started actually living again. What started that same night at a hospital psych ward, turned into a two week in-patient program, and was later followed by two outpatient therapies.
My life was a mess but I was picking up the pieces. They told me I came in suicidial, I had anorexia, (which I wasn’t even aware of, because it wasn’t intentional, I simply wasn’t eating, in my warped state.) and that I weighed only 100lbs upon entry.
With the help of someone I love dearly, I was able to find some peace while going through that horrifying ordeal of hospitalization. It almost broke our relationship a few times, but he stuck by me and is still here today. I can’t imagine it being easy on him. Seeing someone you love completely lose it, while you slowly try to reel her back in to reality.
I owe my sanity to him, and to my friends and family tethering me to this Earth. It’s because of them I was able to clean up my life, treat my issues, and later go on to have a family of my own and become a productive member of society.
A New Picture
I’m not sharing this story today for pity. Nor am I sharing this story for support, or the seeking of any form of attention.
I’m sharing this story today because I’m no longer scared.
What happened to me is wrong and it is damn well time I started addressing it. Especially since these same people are seeking me out and targeting me once more.
I had a wonderful conversation with our own Matticus the other morning when they first breached my current site. After we talked, I marinated on the fact that this is a topic that shouldn’t go away. This form of malicious hatred happens often online to people of all ages, and for some, it even goes as far as my incident did – sometimes even worse.
This was the reason I have remained anonymous online.
I apologize for not telling you sooner. This was however, my most difficult story, and I have never been quite ready to lift the veil.
They found me a few days ago because of a small picture I recently put up over at my art gallery, that displays a small portion of my actual face. I disguised it, tried to make it look like art, but anyone that knows me well knows my face.
There’s a huge difference now from what took place back then. I’m stronger now, having been dealt many more blows after that. Besides, motherhood being a challenge on its own, I think I’ve earned some strength stripes. I’ve mastered the art of the bounce-back. More importantly, I have the support of a new set of friends, that I’m confident won’t ever intentionally hurt me.
I know they won’t hurt me because, Goldy, even through her own hurt, comforted Rara, Matt, even through his own hurt, comforted me, and Jon, and, Jaded. I know they won’t hurt me because late at night, when the flashes of the past hurt threaten to smother me, Jaded will send me a message. I know they won’t hurt me because Kozo, even after all these years, still sends me kind words. I know they won’t hurt me because, even through all of the horribly unfortunate events that fell upon our Rara this past year, she asks me in a letter if I’m doing ok. I know they won’t hurt me because when I was having a particularly rough go of it one day, Samara and NotAPunkRocker didn’t hesitate to give me their phone numbers.
I know they won’t hurt me because when we lost one of our own, we all banded together.
That’s the key in all this. Support. Love. Nurturing. We all need it as humans. We shouldn’t be tearing one another down. I have no delusions or illusions of being perfect. Now you just know it.
I’m no longer scared.
I’m painting a new picture today and it’s one that doesn’t require my artistic hand.
The picture I’m painting is me.