On May 8, 2012, a man named Jeff Barszcz, or “Fedge”, took his own life and left behind a few online accounts and some painful memories for the people who cared about him. What troubled me most about this person’s passing is that this was the first time I’d ever heard of him.
Most of the people with whom I’ve connected online have been those who’ve found me via this website or through some retweets or reblogs, and we talk in real time. This man, however, first appeared on my dashboard as a blog post by someone who was referring to him in the past tense and expressing a sense of regret for things that could have and should have been said. Then, another post was written up by another person and for the rest of the night I was haunted, wondering about his personal details and how it was that he created his own ending.
I thought that to suddenly learn about this person and in this manner just isn’t fair or pleasant. When some new name comes to my attention, it’s usually because they posted something hilarious or insightful. This was neither. It was painful and gruesome. Even worse, to read the last words he posted on his blog got me to wondering about the helplessness he caused his friends and family to feel. That was how he chose for them to find out about what was going on in his life. He made his choice and no one was given the chance to talk him out of it.
It tears at my gut because there was a moment in my life when I felt crippled by despair enough to finally give up. I’ve talked about it sometimes and I’ve done so with the gentlest language possible, but it doesn’t change how it happened. It was me digging into my wrist with a small blade and my eyes blinded by hot tears and the horrifying belief that I was done and it would just be okay to go. I remember texting goodbye to someone who replied with, “I’ll pray for you.”
If I thought attempting suicide was the most vulnerable moment in my life, it was quickly overshadowed by seeing my friend’s faces the next day when they rushed over after I told my best friend what I’d done. I thought about how I wasn’t a kid anymore, as if suicide was just a thing that dramatic and desperate teens thought about because they didn’t have an understanding of life’s potential longevity. It took a lot of reflecting before it made sense that I was an adult and this was a very serious problem that I hadn’t outgrown and had been following me for so many years all leading up to that very challenging and very broken night.
Connecting With Strangers Online
I’m grateful to be alive during a time when people are rapidly connecting to each other online. Before the Internet made it into our homes, we got our information about other people via word of mouth or letters that we’d often sneak to each other between classes. In high school, right before most of us got signed up with AOL, we relied on meeting new faces when we switched classes every year or we waited until someone threw a bitchin’ party.
Now, it’s so easy to meet people if you do something as simple as sign up with Twitter or start a blog and build a readership of like-minded individuals. It’s so much easier to connect to people who know where you’re coming from and to whom you can vent to because they do care and they do want to know.
Of the people I follow, there are a few who stir that darkness in me. They awaken the fear I once felt and I worry about them. Sometimes I think that I’m following them just to make sure they’re still doing okay more than for the sake of enjoying what they write. This thing that exists in us, I don’t believe that it ever goes away. It begs to be managed.
His Final Thoughts
In his second to last blog entry, Jeff compared his state of being to the cavity-stricken molar in his mouth. Over time, the tooth fell apart. It’s a hauntingly perfect metaphor for the way in which depression eats away at a person even when it goes untreated. He shares a massive feeling of isolation from social situations and an inability to fall in love again. The last sentence reads, “Lately it’s like the world is telling me to go, and I don’t feel like putting up a fight anymore.” I remember that feeling. I remember having completely given up on life and sinking into a place in my mind that interpreted death as the only way to ease the heartache. It’s only now, with a clear mind and heart that I realize how poorly I had interpreted my state. I was not broken and irreparable and while I didn’t know it then, I know it now.
I fear that as we watch someone’s mental state disintegrate on an open forum like a blog, we won’t reach them in time. This is the side of social media that I forget about too easily when I’m busy laughing at jokes on Twitter. A life ends and it’s one less friend I had a chance to make during my lifetime, but that in no way compares to the massive holes a person leaves behind in the hearts of friends and family.