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Ten Years on from “that Twitter Meltdown”
Tomorrow, it will be ten years.
On August 9, 2013, I woke up in my childhood bedroom in Carmel.
I ate the breakfast my mother made, but lied when she asked if I had taken my many medications. I wanted to be able to walk and think, not spend the day somnolent in front of CNN.
My fourth marriage was already over. A porn site had published details of my relationship with a sex worker. The site printed sexts this gal and I had sent each other, including screenshots of my penis.
New York Magazine had interviewed me when I had taken way too much Klonopin, and I’d humiliated myself. Good journalists don’t interview people when they’re high as kites. But I had no one but myself to blame.
It was bad, and I’d lost a lot, but I was in a mood to lose a lot more.
Ten years ago tomorrow, I strolled down to the beach, came home, grabbed two Diet Cokes and asked my mama if I could do some writing in her study, in the back of the house.
"Do you remember taking all your pills?" Mama inquired. I promised her I had. She promised to call me for lunch.
The next time we spoke was 90 minutes later, when she knocked on the door.
"Darling," she said, mama's voice as gentle as it was concerned, "the police are here."
The cops had come to pull me off Twitter.
In the hour and a half since I'd disappeared into her study, what remained of my career and my reputation was gone.
Mine was not the first social media meltdown, and it wouldn't be the last, but it was effective. Much of what I tweeted was only half true, if that. To the extent that I remember why I was typing what I was typing, I was hoping to scorch every inch of the plot of land that was my life. I just wasn’t sure whether I hoped I could begin again in radical honesty, or -- and this is far more the reason -- hoped I would be left with no reason to live.
My Twitter meltdown was enough of a transparent attempt to force myself to suicide for someone to call my hometown police department. The officers took me into the hospital for a psych eval, but the damage had been done. Many friends who were my friends before that day are -- even so many years later -- no longer part of my life. I hurt many, and not all those whom I hurt that day will ever accept my amends.
My mother's study is so small, so cozy, 100 square feet of books and windows. I had always felt safe there as a child, safer than in any room in the house. It was the perfect spot to blow up a life.
What I remember best about those 90 minutes of tweeting nonsense to an ever-growing audience was the sound of the gardeners next door: the faint Spanish, the leaf-blowers, and the clip-clip-clip of shears. Something big was being pruned.
Ten long years on, I live every day with the consequences of this recklessness. But I have no doubts about living itself. The landscape was scorched, but in time and with work, I grew new flowers in that burned field.
(If anyone you know goes through a public shaming, have them get in touch with me. I know how to survive and rebuild.)