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A Very Troubling Blog Comment

About a month ago, I got a comment on a very old blog post, one I wrote years ago. This happens from time to time, that I get a response to archived piece I've written, but there was something different about this comment. It was very sad. It was from a young guy who was patently in the throes of a very rough time, who couldn't find work, who went as far as to mention taking his own life. For several reasons, I didn't publish the comment.

I get super vulnerable comments from time to time on this blog, and for the most part I love these comments and the deep thought and humanity they evince. It heartens me to know that there are indeed real people out there in the world reading my words, feeling my questions, taking the time to share bits of self here. And, the thing is, by choosing to be vulnerable myself here from time to time, I know that I am in many respects asking for these gritty and gray words, these honest and sometimes heartbreaking reactions.

But this comment I got a few weeks ago? It was different. It crossed a line, a line of which I'm not sure I was aware. I read it at first in the morning when I was busy with many things. I read the comment to Husband when I had the chance. I could not stop thinking about the comment, and about the guy who wrote it. I am a storyteller and I began concocting a story in my head, a story of suffering, of sadness, of soul. I began to collect clues - the comment's author had written it in the middle of the night. I was able to deduce his Twitter handle and read his recent tweets. I felt relief to learn that in the hours since he'd left the comment on my blog, he'd been tweeting up a storm.

That night, after returning home from a movie with Husband, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It pained me to think that this guy might be out there somewhere, really struggling and maybe keeping his struggles a secret. In the past few years alone, I've known too many people who've killed themselves to have this whole thing roll off me.

I came close to emailing the guy. And then I hesitated. Deciding that I have zero expertise in handling such a situation, I ended up calling a suicide hotline. A woman with the perfectly soothing voice answered the phone and I told her about my situation, my dilemma. She told me to do what my heart told me to do. I implored her to give me more concrete advice. She didn't.

I wrote the guy an email. It was short. All I said was that I was sorry he was in such a dark place, and that I hoped he would talk to a professional if he was indeed thinking and feeling the things he suggested in the comment to me. I wrote the email and edited it. And I never sent it. I felt a surge of instinct telling me that my role is not a counselor, that I have a family, that I must protect myself and not engage with strangers, particularly strangers who seem to be embroiled in drama or tragedy. I went to bed.

But before I fell asleep - it took me a long time to nod off that night - I had a conversation with myself. Husband was asleep next to me, his breath rolling in and out of a snore, something which I found oddly comforting. I said to myself: I didn't sign up for this. This has become something I never intended. What if I just stopped? That's right. I considered quitting my blog right there and then. In many ways, I was drafting my exit post in my head, rationalizing to myself why it might be time to go.

And then. I fell asleep. And woke up. And as so often happens, the world felt different the next morning. My thoughts had calmed, clarity and reason had returned. I took on the day and essentially put out of my head the angst I had felt, the ideas I had had, mere hours before.

But the thing is that those thoughts and those questions never went away. They scattered to the corners of my consciousness, but they've been there, waiting for their turn. And over Thanksgiving, they reappeared. And here they are.

I guess I am wondering something: Is there a way to do this blogging thing, to be out there in the world, to allow myself to be raw and honest and real from time to time and invite my readers to be raw and honest and real from time to time without exposing myself too much, without finding myself in these odd and precarious situations? Or is this all par for the cyber-course, something I must learn to live with and handle as time goes on?

I want to continue blogging here. Doing so makes me a happier person and a more thoughtful mother and a better writer. I love nothing more than huddling up at the screen and sipping my coffee and asking the big questions that too often get lost in the shuffle of modern life. But. But I am human and have emotions and am not made of steel.

Today is a day when I would so appreciate your thoughts - on my particular dilemma with the commenter a few weeks back, on blogging within important lines and limits, on anything really... There is of course the possibility that the author of the blog comment is reading today, so if you have any words for him or more general thoughts about resources and methods of coping with hard times, please go ahead and share them.

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Has anyone in your real life or virtual life ever mentioned suicide? How did you handle, or not handle, this mention? If you are a blogger, have you ever received any particularly troubling comments or messages along the way? Any thoughts on how to blog and blog openly without rendering oneself too vulnerable to such things?

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