January 10, 2019

How My Message On Social Media Changed My Life And Thousands Of Others. 

How My Message On Social Media Changed My Life And Thousands Of Others.
How My Message On Social Media Changed My Life And Thousands Of Others. 
Two years ago, I wrote the above message on an app called Jodel. It is the European equivalent of the once popular social app, Yik Yak. Jodel is an anonymous forum where you can write about anything and where anyone within 10 kilometers can see your message and reply.



I had no idea at the time that this very short message fundamentally would change my life as well as help thousands of others.



Before I tell you what happened next, please allow me to tell you a bit about myself.



My name is Patrick, I am 28 years old and I have lived more than half of my childhood and youth life in orphanages and with one foster family. It was an anxious upbringing with defeat, insecurity and violent assaults that have made me the person I am today; a person with very poor self-esteem and a deep inner sense of identitylessness. I have a great deal of baggage which has made my adult life difficult. Due to childhood trauma and mental illness problems I have yet to complete an education and keep a job for more than a few months, something I am very ashamed of.



In September of 2016, 3 months before I wrote the message, my girlfriend of 6 years cheated on me and left me shortly after. My whole world came crumbling down and I was on the brink of suicide. I got admitted to the local psychiatric hospital, but was released after an intense week of care and treatment. I never had many friends growing up, and those few I had, I lost touch with after my now ex-girlfriend and I got together back in 2010.



So there I was, with no family or friends. I was completely alone. And in my desperation for human contact, I decided to write and send out the message you see above.



A lot of people read my cry for help and came to my aid – no less than 13 strangers decided to show up and give their support. I was so overwhelmed with joy, that I had to fight back tears. Many of them confided in me throughout the evening and told me that they too had felt the heart-wrenching pain of loneliness, but were too afraid of reaching out because of the stigma surrounding it.



The meeting went viral in my home country, Denmark, and the next day I was contacted by Radio24syv, one of the largest public service radio stations in Denmark. I was also contacted by TV stations as well as numerous papers. At first I declined their offers, as I was afraid of the stigma and taboo, but after much serious thought, I decided to tell my story – not for myself, but for the good of others. I knew something had to be done about the increasing loneliness rates in Denmark (statistics at the time showed that more than 210,000 Danes often felt lonely), so I took it upon myself to make a change.



I then started a free nationwide peer-to-peer network/nonprofit organization on Facebook, Smilet Danmark (Smile Denmark), where lonely people could find new friends and someone who they could relate to. A network where you were applauded for showing your weaknesses and vulnerability. A network where we as a community would stand together against the taboo that is loneliness.



To help new members getting settled, I would invite them into my home each week for dinner, game nights or parties. It was very important to me that the members had a good first time experience and would leave feeling part of a community.



4 months after, the network had grown to over 10,000 members and I made the decision to drop out of my education as a Web Developer. It was not an easy decision, but it was a necessary one as I wanted to commit 100% of my time to my voluntary work and to help others. One of the ways I wanted to help, besides moderating Smilet Danmark, was to help raise awareness about loneliness and mental health in Denmark. So in April 2017, I started March mod Ensomhed (March Against Loneliness), an annual relay walk of 300 kilometers from Copenhagen to Aarhus. The concept was; that under no circumstances was I allowed to walk, unless accompanied by another person. Through my walk I wanted to emphasize the importance of human interaction, social responsibility and community. Luckily for me, more than 70 people chose to support my walk, by either walking with me or offering me accommodation and food. I only had to stand still twice during my walk, which was a lot better than expected.



A few months after, in July, I was live on the Danish morning show, Go’ morgen Danmark (Good morning Denmark), to announce that beginning December 2017, I would walk more than 20,000 kilometers from Denmark to China to help raise international awareness about loneliness. Walking to China has been a dream of mine as far back as I can remember. But unfortunately, coming December 2017, I was unable to leave. More about that in a bit.



While preparing for the walk I was desperately trying to pass on the responsibilities of Smilet Danmark. I knew that I could not manage a network of 10,000 people while being on the road and I had to find someone, just like me, who was passionate about the cause.

I searched for months without finding the right suitor, and as time went, I realized that I would not be able to meet my initial deadline. It was a tremendous failure for me personally, and to be honest, I felt very embarrassed.



In November 2017, I decided to take a couple of days off in order to recharge my batteries. My excessive thoughts kept me up most nights, so one night, in an attempt to clear my head, I decided to share my thoughts and write my story here on Imgur



The following morning I woke up to hundreds of comments and messages on Facebook – once again I had gone viral, which wasn’t exactly my intent. Sure, I had hoped it would inspire some, but in no way did I expect it would go viral.



People from all corners of the world read my story and could relate, a lot of them wrote me and thanked me for sharing, some even trusted me with their own story. It was very beautiful. Media outlets all over the world also took interest in my story; BBC, Business Insider, Daily Mirror etc.



All of this newfound attention quickly turned into stress and before I knew it, my body and mind began to shut down. I had lost control.

When I initially wrote my message on Jodel, I did it because I needed help. But because of the platform I was given, and my sense of responsibility, my focus quickly shifted from helping myself to helping others. And in November 2017 it finally had caught up to me.



I spend December 2017 and January 2018 in bed trying to recover – which I did.

In February 2018 I selfishly decided to retire from Smilet Danmark and pass on the responsibilities to someone I barely knew. In the 14 months I was in charge, I helped facilitate more than 300 events all over Denmark and I welcomed more than 100 strangers into my home in the entirety of 2017, something I am very proud of given my history with social anxiety.



Two months later, in April 2018, I became the first ever ambassador of Folkebevægelsen mod Ensomhed (The People’s Movement Against Loneliness), Denmark’s largest loneliness-prevention association. In relation to March Against Loneliness 2018 we thought it best to form a partnership to further help raise awareness about loneliness and mental health. With their financial help as well as reach on social media, I was able to complete March Against Loneliness 2018 with flying colors, having walked with 350 people across Denmark, an increase of 400% from 2017. Oh – and I did not have to stand still.



From December 2016 to April 2018 I had more than 50 media appearances in Denmark, 18 of which on television. I never felt comfortable being part of the newscycle but simply accepted it as a byproduct of my actions, and well, if you want to help raise awareness, the best way is through the media. So I really should't complain.

Being in the public eye, having people stop me on the street always made me uncomfortable. I never knew how to react or what to say. I would always freeze and become this socially awkward person. I hated it. So in May 2018 I began to isolate myself inside my apartment.



Most of my life I have struggled with social anxiety, and though I thought I had outgrown it, my anxiety came back with a vengence in June 2018. During these past 5-6 months I have lived a life of solitude – completely isolated from the world. I have not spoken to any media and social encounters has been kept at a minimum. In October, I did speak with my doctor though, and as suspected, I suffer from depression, which I am currently under treatment for.

However, I do not necessarily view my isolation as a bad thing, as it has helped me reflect on these past two years of my life as well give me a better understanding of who I want to become.



Last week I began preparations for March Against Loneliness 2019. Next year I will walk more than 500 kilometers from Copenhagen to Aalborg and I am very excited. It is the furthest I have ever walked and I am curious as to how my body will hold up. I am even planning on starting my walk towards China in continuation of next year’s March Against Loneliness. My mission is no longer to help raise international awareness about loneliness, but instead to focus on myself and hopefully return home capable of completing an education.



Thank you for reading.



*EDIT*



I'm very grateful for all of your sweet comments! Thank you so much!



If you feel like my story has inspired you or perhaps could inspire others, please consider sharing it. Sometimes the world needs a little bit of hope.



And if you want to link up on Facebook or have any question regarding my story, loneliness etc. feel free to add me.



https://www.facebook.com/patrickcakirli

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