Thank you, Josh, I'm sorry for using your story to tell mine
By Anonymous

Josh, I’m sorry for using your story to tell mine. Thank you for your wonderful art and for helping give shape to my thoughts. I know this won’t help you get better, but maybe it will make me improve so I can buy your books and/or help somebody else.

A story about a guy

This is a story about a guy. Let’s call him Josh. I don’t know Josh personally, and that might make you lose interest in the whole thing. Josh is, was, used to be, I don’t know, an illustrator and webcomic artist. How much can you know a person based on their works of art, social media posts and someone else’s posts about them? I don’t know. I liked his art, I read his comics, I followed him in social media. I loved the heart I saw in his comics; they were enticing too, if you know what I mean. I saw struggle in his posts.

So, I used to consume a lot of webcomics on the desktop. Some of them shaped me, and when an artist struggles and their work is no longer available, it hurts. Because maybe I could have helped. Reading some webcomics didn’t work well on mobile, so I started falling behind. I found comic mobile apps and started consuming different new comics. It had been years since I read anything from Josh, so when two of his works showed up in one of these apps, I started following his updates.

His art was “too mature”?

There is something else about Josh’s art, and that is crucial to understanding this story: his art is sexy and sex-positive. Also funny and weird. But apparently the “sex” part of the equation was a big issue. Josh had to stop showcasing his latest work on this app, essentially cutting off a source of income, because it was apparently too mature. Maybe I’ll find his statement at the time.

I didn’t hear much from him after that. Some social media posts here and there, nothing that comes to mind. Maybe because some posts were buried and I was leaning away from social media. *Too much hate on my TL.*

Talking about buried posts, it was another artist who quoted Josh’s cry for help. It popped up in one of those “In case you missed it” algorithmic interventions. *In matters of life and death, social media can be damn unreliable*.
**Social Media in general, and Twitter in particular, convey a sense of immediacy that turns into frustration when you realize the events you are reading are not happening in real time, never mind the context.**

It is not a usual event, for me at least, to read somebody saying they are going to take their life, and read backwards chronologically to find how and why. That damned statement, that call for help, it struck a damned chord, and I also unravelled in social media. I’ll explain.

Unravelling in social media

It started with one word. “Dammit.”
At the time I was approaching an age milestone, with some things lined up for a revisit of things that made me happy a few years ago. So I had been reading old webcomics for comfort and amusement. I binged years of webcomics in weeks. I was riding high on good memories.

Then reality put an icy hand on my chest when I read about Josh. I was just finishing an arc of a comic called “Questionable Content”, when one of the main characters speaks about her father’s suicide and its ripples. Added to that, I had been toying daily with the idea of “taking myself out of the equation”.

So, many things came crashing onto me and I started crying in my workplace cafeteria and as I tweeted, “blotting tears with a dirty paper towel”.
**Everything is a symbol of something else, and what we are now is a product of what we lived through so far.**
After the shock faded, more information came to the surface. This wasn’t his first time; Josh had struggled with something internal and reacted badly, burning bridge after bridge.

1in4 mental health anthology

A follower of his replied to me, letting me know he was recovering. I thanked this person. (And that’s another story.)
Days later, Josh resurfaced. He said he would not like to experience that again. Thank you, Josh, for all your art, and for helping me get some things in perspective. I would not like me or anybody else to be going through what you experienced. Thank you for your story and “sorry for the outbursts”.


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