Chat Room Dangers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     This May I will graduate from high school. It’s been interesting and I’ve learned a lot about life and love.

Freshman year there was a lot to take in, from adjusting to a new building to figuring out the upperclassmen’s rules. When I was home, it was a time of relaxation and surfing the internet. The chat rooms amused me because everyone acted like they were in charge of the world. I liked to talk to people and hear where they were from, and one day I met a guy who seemed great. That night most of my time was devoted to talking to him. He told me how he was from a small country in the Middle East and all about his hobbies and life.

When I moved to my town of 1,500 from a much larger place, it was a big change. Not only was I switching schools, I was also changing who I lived with. My dad was there to support me and tell me how much he cared, but I still didn’t feel quite right. I became depressed. I hated the way I looked, the way I acted and I even tried to kill myself three times because in my mind it would be easier to escape. There seemed no hope for me to be successful in this world.

All of this was a secret; there was no way I wanted anyone to know anything was wrong. They wouldn’t want to be friends with me and my dad would (in my mind) yell at me if he found out what I was doing. So there it was, my safety blanket - the guy I met on the internet.

He told me that I should come overseas to him, that he would take care of me, love me, and make sure no one ever harmed me. We would get married, have kids and live happily ever after. So I planned it. On the night of my cheerleading game, I would fake being sick and tell them my dad was going to pick me up. Instead, someone would give me a ride to the next town where I’d catch a bus to Chicago. There, I’d catch a flight to Lebanon and my life would be perfect.

Well, everything didn’t go as planned. I missed the bus and ended up finding a guy named Kevin who volunteered to drive me to Chicago. We drove all night, only to get there and not be able to cash the check I had forged. Kevin told his mom in North Carolina my story and said she’d agreed to lend me money for the flight. So off to North Carolina we went. A day later, we were greeted by his mom, but not in the friendly way I had imagined.

She hadn’t reacted to Kevin’s tale the way he’d thought and had contacted the FBI. She told us that they figured out the guy I was running away for would use me for prostitution. He was going to beat me, sell me on the streets to anyone who wanted me, and never feel bad about any of it. I was shocked. For two years, I had talked to him almost every night. We had used voice chat, web cameras, pictures ... how could he not be the person I thought?

Kevin’s mom drove me back home to Wisconsin immediately. I arrived at the police station at 4 a.m. and was asked by the police if I knew what I had put my parents through. They phoned my dad and told him he could come pick me up. Next they called my mom, to whom I apologized. I will never forget what she said: she was just happy I was home and kept asking why I had run away. Then she told me she had sat by the Christmas tree crying, wondering if she would ever see me again. When my dad arrived, he cried for the first time ever; he was so happy I was home.

I was taken to talk with a social worker who determined I was depressed and suicidal. My dad and I agreed I would go to a hospital for treatment. I learned a lot about myself there and met a bunch of new friends too. I was discharged in a week, but continued my battle with depression for a couple of years before I learned how to cope.

Today I am the student council president, will graduate one of the top ten in my class and have a goal: to become a nurse.

I hope my story can help others. First of all, don’t ever trust anyone on the internet, no matter what. They may sound great and make you believe you know who they are, but so did I and it wasn’t because of my age that my intuition faltered. It’s because they do it for a living and experience equals excellence. Second, suicide is never the answer. It is, as they say, "a permanent solution to a temporary problem." At the time things may seem hopeless, but things always do get better eventually. Take me - had I succeeded in killing myself, I wouldn’t be where I am today and would have missed out on all my great achievements.

Lastly, know that someone always loves you, whether they show it or not. In the last few years I was shown all the lives that each and every one of us touch on a daily basis. Suicide and running away affects those around you. Just remember each of us has ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, pluses and minuses, but in the end, things even out.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Shadowrider said...
Jun. 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm
This is amazing! Your story is amazing! You are amazing! You overcame so much! 
 
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