How media saved my life

Growing up a neurodivergent girl in a broken home situated between fields and forests and marshland, childhood wasn’t exactly fun. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the village I grew up in started falling apart. Now, I’m not trying to say that I’m not happy my home country gained independence (back) when that happened, but with that, the booming agriculture in villages like mine died. As time passed, jobs had to be found elsewhere. Of course, at the time I had no knowledge of this all, but children are not dumb. The looming hopelessness and lack of ambition in the air in these villages like mine was never for me, and I’ve known this since the very beginning.

Now as you know a bit about the background of my situation, you can hopefully understand my options were limited. I was an exceptionally bright kid in a school that didn’t notice my talents or notice my depression that was growing deeper and deeper as I felt misunderstood and disengaged. Bullying started in the first grade, and never really stopped. By the end of ninth grade, I had changed schools due to bullying (spoiler alert: it didn’t help), tried to end my life and been diagnosed with severe depression and insomnia. Now, this is not a sob story and I’m not looking for people to feel sorry for me. We all come from different realities and backgrounds and mine has made me exceptionally vigilant, determined, compassionate and ambitious. But how does media fit into all of this?

Media was my escape. Media was my hope.

I started reading at a very early age and by the time I started school, I was devouring books. All thanks to my mom, who said that she can’t be bothered to read to me when I know how to read myself, and whose living room walls are covered with bookshelves from top to bottom. It helped that there was a library in plain sight from our windows, the remnant of a school that once, before families left to cities in pursuit of career opportunities, existed in the village. So day by day went by and I spent every free moment I had, sitting in an old armchair under the window and reading. Exploring worlds and meeting creatures and living a life through literature far more exiting than the one I faced in reality.

Then came the internet. Our first computer was huge, noisy, and turned on for a good half an hour. This introduced me to an even bigger world of opportunities than books did. My brother reluctantly taught me how to torrent, and off I was to a vast world of media to engage in. At first I was mostly interested in the games, soon discovered movies, series, anime and manga. This all gave me even more opportunities to escape the cruel and mundane world my physical body was, for some reason, placed in, and introduced me to hope that even from the direst, darkest places, I could grow and seek greatness.

Then came social media. And even though I faced a lot of the bullying taking place on social media platforms, I also found a whole community of people that were like me. That felt lost, and like nobody understood them, and that faced similar struggles. For the first time in my life, I had likeminded people I could communicate with. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel utterly and devastatingly alone. And only through this, I started seeing the world differently. Only through this I understood, that suicide was far not the only option. And with this I found a place for myself in the world, found opportunities to help the people who were in the same, seemingly hopeless situations I had been in.

So by the time high school started, I moved across country to start over in a boarding school. I found hope, and belonging, and a sense of home in myself. I kept fighting and pushing against the odds over and over again, because after all, I knew I’d done it before and prevailed.

How could I not love my media, when living a life in media has given me all of these experiences, opportunities, and growth. And new chance at life, really.

Ingel

Published by deuzemedialife

Mediastudies, University of Amsterdam

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