Why I Keep Writing About Myself Online

By Crystal Lindell, Columnist

The other month I was chatting with this guy on Tinder. To protect the guilty, we’ll just call him Jerk I Should Have Swiped Left On — or Jerk for short.

All he knew about me was my first name, that I hate the Green Bay Packers, and that I write for a candy magazine. But it was all he needed.

Jerk: Hey. Sorry I took a minute to text back. I was just reading about a hurricane.

Me: What? There’s a hurricane? WHERE? OMG?

Jerk: No, I found your column.

He was talking about this column:  “Surviving the Hurricane of Chronic Pain.”    

You know, the one where I share all the intimate details of being in chronic pain for the last three years. 

Where I allude to things like suicidal thoughts with lines like: “I spent almost six months on the verge of drowning. And eventually I just got so tired that I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes, fall back into the water, and let it all go.”

And I talk about how many drugs I take. And how I live with my mom. And how I only barely survived the last few years.  

I had never even met this man and yet he was already getting a glimpse into incredibly personal parts of my life story.  It kind of made me mad, if I’m being honest. I mean, yes, I put it all out there. But I wasn’t expecting Jerk to go looking for it all so quickly. 

I was a writer long before I woke up with rib pain in February 2013. And since then, I’ve turned to the written word to try and make sense of it all. I always say: Writing is just a part of my soul, and when I go through things, I can’t not write about it. 

Of course, choosing to share those writings with the world is another thing altogether. And it’s a choice I make with great care. 

I try to be raw, visceral and real, but at the same time there are actually some things that are off limits. There are some pieces of my writing that only my best friend has ever read because I decided they were just a bit too personal for the internet. 

But even with that filter, there’s a lot about me out there for all the world to read. And all of it includes my real name. 

Anyone with three minutes and Google can find out about my long-term health problems, my opioid use, and my struggles with suicidal thoughts. And while it kind of sucks when a Tinder guy I think I might like finds all that stuff, it’s probably worse when people I know professionally see all of that as well. 

But then, I get the emails. And the private Facebook messages. And the comments. And I remember why I keep putting everything out there. 

I get emails that say things like:

“[Chronic pain] is a tough thing to live with for sure and I've felt so much of what you've written. It’s nice to know it's not just me to be honest.”

And private Facebook messages like:

“I've not openly shared my story like this before, just beginning to live a more transparent life, sharing and caring with others. You inspire me, by being so open with your story and the writing. Soon I will be working on my YouTube channel doing just this, sharing my testimony and journey in hopes to share connect helping one another. Peace.”

And Cat, who runs an intercostal neuralgia support group on Facebook, links to my column about my Painniversary, with comments like:

“So, I've never actually met someone with my condition face to face. But this is my friend Crystal who lives in USA, and has intercostal neuralgia like me. She is a writer and this is her pain blog. We 'met' through the support page I started 4 years ago.

My Painniversary is the 1st of October 2010. My pain hasn't improved. It's changed a bit though. I don't feel like I'm being stabbed as often, and I don't get the ‘needle of icicles’ down my nipple so much either, but the 24/7 relentlessness is always there. Weird to say, but it's comforting to know there are others like me who get what I'm going through.

Pain cannot be explained only experienced, but I totally get what Crystal is saying. I understand x.”

I read all this and it stops me in tracks.

I’ll be at my sister’s basketball game or waiting for a Tinder date to show up, and I’ll get a little notification or I’ll see a comment and I’ll just stop. I promise you, I read every single comment, every single email, every single Facebook message. And every single one of them touches my heart in a way that I can’t even explain. And I have to say, thank you to every single person who has ever taken the time to read my work, and then felt compelled to comment. Seriously. Thank you.

So yes, it actually really is annoying and frustrating when Jerk on Tinder finds out way too much about me before we even share a glass of wine together. But I’m going to keep putting myself out there, sharing way too much information about my life.

Because if I literally only help one person know that they aren’t alone and they aren’t crazy, then it’s more than worth it. Even if it means that ultimately, things don’t work out with Jerk from Tinder.

Crystal Lindell is a journalist who lives in Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching "Burn Notice" episodes on Netflix and Snicker's Bites. She has had intercostal neuralgia since February 2013.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, “The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.”

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.